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Convection in Venus' Atmosphere

Gerald Schubert of UCLA and David Baker of the Universities Space Research Association conducted simulations of a 2-D model of the Venusian atmosphere to learn whether gravity waves generated by convection in the lower atmosphere and cloud layers speed up or slow down the rotation of the upper atmosphere around the much more slowly rotating planet--the atmosphere's most puzzling characteristic. To the surprise of the researchers, the gravity waves exerted a dramatic slowing effect on the winds in the upper atmosphere, enough to slow the winds to a halt after about a week if the atmospheric rotation were not being driven by some much stronger process. See the accompanying story.