Winds In Jupiter And Other Planets
If you were living near Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot, your weather forecast would be something like this: Expect lightning storms and winds gusting to 340 miles per hour for the next few hundred years. On Earth, hurricane-force winds blow as “slowly” as 74 miles per hour. By comparison, winds in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot move at speeds up to 340 mph. On Venus, you’d face a temperature of 890ºF, which is hot enough to melt lead. And Neptune’s 900 mph winds would make the worst hurricanes on Earth seem like gentle breezes.
Just as meteorologists study the weather on Earth, planetary scientists study the weather on other planets. Weather and wind can occur only on planets or other objects that are surrounded by layers of gases, called atmospheres. At least 12 objects in our solar system fit that category.
Probing the wind
To check winds on another planet, scientists send a measuring device into its atmosphere. On a planet with no wind, gravity makes the probe drop straight down toward the planet’s surface. If the probe falls at an angle, researchers know that it’s being pushed by wind, and they can then calculate the wind’s speed and direction. So far, probes have measured winds below the clouds on Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn’s moon Titan.
Forecasting the future
Scientists are using the data they collect from planets other than Earth to help create a grand theory of what causes weather throughout the solar system. They want to know why some storms last longer than others, and why some become so powerful. They also hope to use this information to make better long-term predictions about storms and droughts.