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Heat production and tidally driven fluid flow in the permeable core of Enceladus
  • Yang Liao,
  • Francis Nimmo,
  • Jerome Neufeld
Yang Liao
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Corresponding Author:yliao@whoi.edu

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Francis Nimmo
University of California, Santa Cruz
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Jerome Neufeld
University of Cambridge
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Saturn’s moon Enceladus has a global subsurface ocean and a porous rocky core in which water-rock reactions likely occur; it is thus regarded as a potentially habitable environment. For icy moons like Enceladus, tidal heating is considered to be the main heating mechanism, which has generally been modeled using viscoelastic solid rheologies in existing studies. Here we provide a new framework for calculating tidal heating based on a poroviscoelastic model in which the porous solid and interstitial fluid deformation are coupled. We show that the total heating rate predicted for a poroviscoelastic core is significantly larger than that predicted using a classical viscoelastic model for intermediate to large (> 10 14 Pa.s) rock viscosities. The periodic deformation of the porous rock matrix is accompanied by interstitial pore fluid flow, and the combined effects through viscous dissipation result in high heat fluxes particularly at the poles. The heat generated in the rock matrix is also enhanced due to the high compressibility of the porous matrix structure. For a sufficiently compressible core and high permeability, the total heat production can exceed 10 GW-a large fraction of the moon’s total heat budget without requiring unrealistically low solid viscosities. The partitioning of heating between rock and fluid constituents depends most sensitively on the viscosity of the rock matrix. As the core of Enceladus warms and weakens over time, pore fluid motion likely shifts from pressure-driven local oscillations to buoyancy-driven global hydrothermal convection, and the core transitions from fluid-dominated to rock-dominated heating.
Sep 2020Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets volume 125 issue 9. 10.1029/2019JE006209