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Tidal heating in icy satellite oceans


Tidal heating plays a significant role in the evolution of many satellites in the outer Solar System; however, it is unclear whether tidal dissipation in a global liquid ocean can represent a significant additional heat source. Tyler (Tyler, R.H. [2008]. Nature 456, 770-772; Tyler, R.H. [2009]. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, doi:10.1029/2009GL038300) suggested that obliquity tides could drive large-scale flow in the oceans of Europa and Enceladus, leading to significant heating. A critical unknown in this previous work is what the tidal quality factor, Q, of such an ocean should be. The corresponding tidal dissipation spans orders of magnitude depending on the value of Q assumed. To address this issue we adopt an approach employed in terrestrial ocean modeling, where a significant portion of tidal dissipation arises due to bottom drag, with the drag coefficient O (0.001) being relatively well-established. From numerical solutions to the shallow-water equations including nonlinear bottom drag, we obtain scalings for the equivalent value of Q as a function of this drag coefficient. In addition, we provide new scaling relations appropriate for the inclusion of ocean tidal heating in thermal-orbital evolution models. Our approach is appropriate for situations in which the ocean bottom topography is much smaller than the ocean thickness. Using these novel scalings, we calculate the ocean contribution to the overall thermal energy budgets for many of the outer Solar System satellites. Although uncertainties such as ocean thickness and satellite obliquity remain, we find that for most satellites it is unlikely that ocean tidal dissipation is important when compared to either radiogenic or solid-body tidal heating. Of known satellites, Triton is the most likely icy satellite to have ocean tidal heating play a role in its present day thermal budget and long-term thermal evolution. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.

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