The planet Venus is not prepared to sit back and let Earth take the prize for the worst weather in the solar system. A series of photos released yesterday from the European Space Agency’s Venus Express spacecraft proves that the second planet from the Sun is second to none when it comes to a chaotic, unpredictable cyclone swirling around its superheated South Pole.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Our so-called spring weather stinks out loud, and I’m about ready to fall behind the movement to seek the death penalty for Punxsutawney Phil, the low-down lyin’ excuse for a groundhog who claimed that we here on Earth would enjoy an early spring.
However, the ESA has invited us all to consider the grim alternative. Venus is blessed with a “dense carbon dioxide atmosphere, with surface pressures of 90 times that of Earth, [which] causes a runaway greenhouse effect that raises the surface temperatures up to 450o. That’s only a tad over 840o F.
Then, roughly 30 to 45 miles in the sky, “there is a dense layer of sulfuric acid clouds that completely covers the planet and moves at speeds of 360km/h in a phenomenon named superrotation, where the atmosphere rotates much faster than the surface of the planet.” That’s over 220 miles/hour.
So it’s safe to say that the planet Venus is currently experiencing a fairly stiff breeze.
A German researcher recently released his preliminary investigation of the possibility of tropical cyclones on Titan, a planet-sized moon that orbits the ringed planet Saturn. He thought the winds could get up to over 40 miles/hour, which makes them good enough for a respectable tropical storm.
However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that it can’t be a true hurricane unless it’s made of water.
As far as NOAA is concerned, the methane rains of Titan and the sulfuric acid superstorms of Venus are a nice try, but they’re not the real deal.
Maybe not. But have they considered shipping that groundhog off to Venus to look for some warmer weather?
[Venus photo series credit: ESA/VIRTIS/INAF-IASF/Obs. de Paris-LESIA/Universidad del País Vasco (I. Garate-Lopez)]