Titan's inventory of organic surface materials

Geophysical Research Letters
By: , and 



Cassini RADAR observations now permit an initial assessment of the inventory of two classes, presumed to be organic, of Titan surface materials: polar lake liquids and equatorial dune sands. Several hundred lakes or seas have been observed, of which dozens are each estimated to contain more hydrocarbon liquid than the entire known oil and gas reserves on Earth. Dark dunes cover some 20% of Titan's surface, and comprise a volume of material several hundred times larger than Earth's coal reserves. Overall, however, the identified surface inventories (>3 × 104 km3 of liquid, and >2 × 105 km3 of dune sands) are small compared with estimated photochemical production on Titan over the age of the solar system. The sand volume is too large to be accounted for simply by erosion in observed river channels or ejecta from observed impact craters. The lakes are adequate in extent to buffer atmospheric methane against photolysis in the short term, but do not contain enough methane to sustain the atmosphere over geologic time. Unless frequent resupply from the interior buffers this greenhouse gas at exactly the right rate, dramatic climate change on Titan is likely in its past, present and future.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Titan's inventory of organic surface materials
Series title Geophysical Research Letters
DOI 10.1029/2007GL032118
Volume 35
Issue 2
Year Published 2008
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Astrogeology Science Center
Description 6 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Geophysical Research Letters
Other Geospatial Titan
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