Convection driven by tidal and radiogenic heating in medium size icy satellites

Czechowski L, Leliwa-Kopystyński J

Planetary and Space Science

53(7), 2005, 749-769, 10.1016/j.pss.2005.01.004

Convection is one of the most important processes responsible for the formation of the surface features on many planetary bodies. Observations of some icy satellites indicate that the satellites’ surfaces are modified due to the internally driven tectonic activity. The tidal heating could be an important source of energy responsible for such internal activity. This suggestion is supported by the correlation of the tidal parameter and tectonic features. Consequently, the tidal and the radiogenic heat sources seem to be of primary importance for the medium size icy satellites. Our research deals with convection in a non-differentiated body. The convection is a results of both uniform radiogenic heating and non-uniform and non-spherically symmetric tidal heating. To investigate the problem a 3D model of convection is developed based on the Navier–Stokes equation, the equation of thermal conductivity, the equation of continuity, and the equation of state. The 3D formulae for the tidal heat generation based on the results of Peale and Cassen [1978. Icarus 36, 245–269] and others are used in the model. To measure the relative importance of radiogenic heating versus tidal heating a dimensionless number is introduced. The systematic investigation of a steady-state convection is performed for different values of the Rayleigh number and for the full range of . The results indicate that for low and moderate value of the Rayleigh number, convection pattern driven by the tidal heating and by the radioactivity in the medium size icy satellites consists of one cell or of two cells. For the critical value of Rayleigh number . The one-cell pattern is specific for low Rayleigh numbers but it could be observed for the full range of number . It means that the pattern of convection does not fully follow the pattern of heating. This rather unexpected result could be of great importance for the final stage of convection. All patterns of tidally driven convection are oriented with respect to the direction to the planet. For two-cell patterns the regions of downward motion are situated in the centers of the near and far sides of the satellite, respectively.