Do tidally-generated inertial waves heat the subsurface oceans of Europa and Enceladus?

Marc Rovira-Navarro*, Michel Rieutord, Theo Gerkema, Leo R.M. Maas, Wouter van der Wal, Bert Vermeersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


Some of the moons of the outer solar system harbour subsurface liquid oceans. Tidal dissipation plays an important role in preventing these oceans from freezing. In the past, most studies considered only tidal dissipation in the solid layers of these bodies (rock and ice). Recently, new studies considering tidal dissipation in the oceans of these moons have appeared. All of them make use of the shallow water approximation. However, the use of this approximation might not be adequate. Here we consider the linear non-hydrostatic three dimensional response of these oceans to tidal forcing with the full Coriolis force. To do so we consider an ocean of homogeneous density contained within a perfectly spherical shell and neglect the effect of the ice shell. We force the ocean with a time changing tidal potential and observe patterns of periodic inertial waves that take energy from the global tidal forcing and focus it along thin shear layers that propagate in the fluid. We focus on Europa and Enceladus, showing that inertial waves result in fluid flows of significant amplitude (a few cm/s). Nevertheless, we find that under the previously mentioned assumptions tidal dissipation due to inertial waves is several orders of magnitude smaller than Europa's radiogenic heating and Enceladus’ observed heat flux. Finally, we propose additional dissipation mechanisms that might play a relevant role in Europa and Enceladus and could be further investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-140
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2019


  • Enceladus
  • Europa
  • Rotational dynamics
  • Tides


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