All planets with substantial atmospheres exhibit weather and have storm systems.

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But the characteristics of a storm will differ between these planets as a consequence of their different atmospheric pressures, temperatures, rotation rates and composition.

The outer planets, particularly Jupiter and Saturn, have some spectacular storm systems.

A view of Jupiter's Great Red Spot captured by the Juno spacecraft and processed by citizen scientist Kevin M Gill. Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Kevin M. Gill, © CC BY
A view of Jupiter's Great Red Spot captured by the Juno spacecraft and processed by citizen scientist Kevin M Gill. Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing by Kevin M. Gill, © CC BY

For example, in the jovian atmosphere the Great Red Spot (GRS) and white oval storms (WOS) are giant hurricanes.

These are like features seen on Earth, except they are much bigger and last for years or decades – even centuries in the case of the GRS.

This is because they develop in a rapidly rotating fluid atmosphere, without being slowed down by rubbing against the surface like on Earth.

Lightning has also been detected in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Saturn's moon Titan. Credit: Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Saturn's moon Titan. Credit: Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn shows many similar features and there have even been dust storms recorded on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Uranus and Neptune also exhibit some giant cloud storm systems.

Clouds are found on Mars, particularly at the equatorial regions, but the Red Planet is more noted for its dust storms.

Image: Two images captured by the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter in 2001 show a change in the planet's appearance as a result of haze raised by dust storms. These images were taken about a month apart. Did early astronomers believe this to be growing vegetation? Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Two images by the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter in 2001 show a change in the planet's appearance as a result of haze raised by dust storms. These images were taken about a month apart. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

These constantly move surface material around the planet. Sometimes these storms can engulf the entire planet and hide the surface from view.

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The planetary atmospheres are certainly excellent natural laboratories for studying storms.

Authors

Garry E. Hunt is a former NASA Scientist who was a co-host on BBC's The Sky at Night for over 20 years.
Garry HuntScientist

Garry E. Hunt is a former NASA Scientist who was a co-host on BBC's The Sky at Night for over 20 years.