Juan M. Lora

Research

View my CV (pdf)

My research involves studying the climate of Saturn's moon Titan, mainly through the use of a general circulation model (GCM). A GCM is composed of many modules that simulate different aspects of the physical system. For Titan, an important and difficult component is the radiative transfer. For this, I've developed a detailed model which takes advantage of data from Cassini-Huygens, and does a good job of reproducing the temperatures observed in Titan's atmosphere.

I am currently involved in an array of other projects that make use of the GCM, including for studying Titan's atmosphere, climate, and surface features. A study of Titan's paleoclimate showed that Titan's low latitudes have been deserts for at least tens of thousands of years, and that polar methane may oscillate between hemispheres approximately every 125,000 years. A paper describing the model, with detailed comparisons to observations, is also forthcoming.

I've also been involved in some work looking at Titan's surface with the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS). Because the atmosphere's opacity over Titan's low latitudes is well characterized and can be accurately modeled, we can extract spectra of the surface, and the surface albedo, from VIMS data. Intriguingly, there are small patches of surface that are basically black. This level of blackness is inconsistent with most likely surface materials, except liquid methane. But Titan's equatorial regions are deserts covered in dunefields, so these patches of liquid are oases! A paper in Nature presented these results.