Dynamic Europa ocean shows transient Taylor columns and convection driven by ice melting and salinity

Yosef Ashkenazy, Eli Tziperman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The deep (~100 km) ocean of Europa, Jupiter’s moon, covered by a thick icy shell, is one of the most probable places in the solar system to find extraterrestrial life. Yet, its ocean dynamics and its interaction with the ice cover have received little attention. Previous studies suggested that Europa’s ocean is turbulent using a global model and taking into account non-hydrostatic effects and the full Coriolis force. Here we add critical elements, including consistent top and bottom heating boundary conditions and the effects of icy shell melting and freezing on ocean salinity. We find weak stratification that is dominated by salinity variations. The ocean exhibits strong transient convection, eddies, and zonal jets. Transient motions organize in Taylor columns parallel to Europa’s axis of rotation, are static inside of the tangent cylinder and propagate equatorward outside the cylinder. The meridional oceanic heat transport is intense enough to result in a nearly uniform ice thickness, that is expected to be observable in future missions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6376
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Physics and Astronomy (all)


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