2009 Annual Science Report
Arizona State University Reporting | JUL 2008 – AUG 2009
Habitability of Water-Rich Environments, Task 2: Model the Dynamics of Icy Mantles
A major aim of future missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa will be to determine whether or not a subsurface ocean exists beneath the icy surface, and assess its habitability. Such investigations require that we understand how features visible at the surface are related to the ocean that may lie below. A major process governing this interaction is convection within ice. To this end, we are developing a new model of Europa ice convection.
ASU collaborator Allen McNamara is working with PhD student Melissa Bunte, co-I Zolotov and collaborator Greeley to develop numerical models of convection within Europa’s ice shell. The ultimate goal of this research is to determine whether surface observations can place constraints on interior dynamics, temperature, and heat production, all of which are required to understand in order to ascertain the viability for life beneath Europa’s icy surface. Our first phase of investigation is aimed toward understanding how the dynamics associated with ice-water interface at the base of the ice shell is expected to influence the length scale of convection within the ice shell. McNamara is currently modifying his pre-existing numerical convection codes that have been used primarily for terrestrial problems, and Bunte is currently in training on their usage. McNamara is developing the first set of numerical cases that will soon be put into production. Initial results are anticipated by December and will be presented by Bunte at the American Geophysical Union in December, 2009.