Recently reported Cassini VIMS observations of thermal emission from the Enceladus south-pole fissures (Goguen et al. 2013) when combined with previous longer wavelength Cassini CIRS observations (Spencer et al. 2006) allow us to better constrain the highest temperatures present, but also require more detailed modeling of the processes which control those highest temperatures. The simplest interpretation of the VIMS observations is that the 3-5 µm thermal radiation comes from the walls within a fissure, rather than the adjacent surface. But as part of investigating that latter alternative it became clear that very high sublimation rates are implied by some predicted surface temperatures. Abramov and Spencer (2009) produced models of the expected surface temperature distribution, assuming conduction of heat through the ice, balanced by thermal radiation at the surface. However as temperature is raised, at 186K sublimation cooling equals radiation, and because it depends exponentially on temperature, it quickly dominates. We have found that including the surface sublimation cooling suppresses the higher temperatures. Regardless of the fissure temperature, surface temperatures above 200K can only be maintained by conduction within a few tens of centimeters of the assumed fissure wall. The high sublimation erosion rates (0.25 m/yr at 180K, rising to over 100 m/yr at 220K) imply that the fixed boundaries we have previously assumed are unrealistic. If these surface temperatures are maintained then either a sublimation lag of non-ice components will accumulate, inhibiting sublimation, or the geometry of the fissure vent will rapidly change. However the rate of change will be limited by the available heat provided by conduction. We are now developing numerical models with moving boundary conditions to explore the time evolution. The simplest result may be that the lip of the fissure erodes back till it no longer remains in thermal contact with the rising vapor which maintains the high fissure temperatures. Ingersoll and Pankine (2010) have explored the importance of vapor/ice equilibrium within the fissure. Those same physical principles will also control the surface temperature near the fissures.
AAS/Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting Abstracts #45
- Pub Date:
- October 2013