The Clouds of Venus in a Global Context
About the Speaker
Kevin McGouldrick attended The Pennsylvania State University as an undergrad, where he hoped to be able to discern which of his two scientific loves he should pursue as a career, astronomy or meteorology. Instead, while there, he was introduced to Dr. Jim Kasting, who showed him that he could do both by pursuing studies in the field of planetary atmospheres.
After earning BS degrees in Physics and in Astronomy & Astrophysics, he continued on to graduate studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. There, he earned MS and PhD degrees under the guidance of Dr. Brian Toon, defending his thesis on the interactions between the microphysics and the radiative transfer in the middle and lower clouds of Venus in 2007.
Since that time, he has continued to broaden his study of the Venus atmosphere, first through the analysis of VIRTIS_M_IR data, beginning as a postdoc working at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science with Dr. David Grinspoon. More recently, he has been working on an as yet incomplete project to reanalyze Pioneer Venus UVS data to improve the estimates of SO2 in the Venus atmosphere from that era, and to compare it to more current observations from Venus Express.
He was named a NASA Participating Scientist on JAXA's Akatsuki mission to study Venus, and hopes that the second attempt at orbit insertion planned for November of 2015 is more successful than the first attempt in December 2010.
Download The Clouds of Venus in a Global Context (PDF) (5.5 MB)
The two defining characteristics of the planet Venus are its atmospheric super-rotation and the planet-enshrouding cloud layers. The clouds reflect more than 70% of the incident solar flux back into space, but about half of the solar flux that is received by the planet is absorbed at the altitudes occupied by the clouds. But for its massive greenhouse effect, the planet Venus would be even cooler than Earth, despite being located closer to the Sun.
The clouds play a pivotal role here, too, as they are the fourth largest contributor to this greenhouse effect, following CO2, H2O, and SO2. Thus, a large fraction of the incident solar flux and a significant fraction of the upwelling infrared flux are absorbed by the Venusian cloud layers. This energy deposition possibly plays a significant role in sustaining the global super-rotation of Venus in which the entire atmosphere circles the planet with periods of as little as four days at the cloud tops. However, these clouds are also highly variable, especially when viewed at ultraviolet and near infrared wavelengths.
In this talk, I discuss the value of multispectral analysis of Venus in characterizing the properties of the planet’s clouds and their role in the global energy and momentum budgets; especially when coupled with in situ measurements of the clouds themselves.
Grand Forks, ND
McGouldrick, Kevin, "The Clouds of Venus in a Global Context" (2015). Space Studies Colloquium. 67.