Experimental simulations of CH4 evaporation on Titan

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Abstract

[1] We present the first experimental results on the evaporation of liquid CH4 under simulated Titan surface conditions similar to those observed at the Huygens landing site. An average evaporation rate of (3.1 ± 0.6) × 10−4 kg s−1 m−2 at 94 K and 1.5 bar was measured. While our results are generally higher than previous models based on energy balance, they show an excellent match with a theoretical mass transfer approach. Indeed, we find that evaporation in the Titan environmental chamber is predominantly diffusion driven and affected by the buoyancy of lighter CH4 in the heavier N2 atmosphere. After correcting for the difference in gravity of Earth and Titan, the resulting evaporation rate is (1.6 ± 0.3) × 10−4 kg s−1m−2 (or 1.13 ± 0.3 mm hr−1). Using our experimental evaporation rates, we determine that the low-latitude storm recently observed by Cassini ISS would have resulted in a maximum evaporated mass of (5.4 ± 1.2) × 1010 kg of CH4 equivalent to a 2.4 ± 0.5 m thick layer over 80 days. Based on our results, a sufficient amount of CH4 can accumulate in the otherwise arid equatorial regions to produce transient ponds and liquid flows.

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