The Great Red Spot is an anticyclonic storm on Jupiter that is bigger than the Earth. Based on the Wikipedia article, it has been shrinking in size for the last 400 years, going from 41 to 16 thousand kilometers wide. What is causing this shrinking?

These articles (1, 2) talk about the spot shrinkage, but are rather vague on the causes. Both of them mention that we will likely learn more with the Juno probe. Now that we have data from Juno, do we know more about why the Great Red Spot is changing in size?

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    $\begingroup$ The Wikipedia page links to a couple of articles on the shrinking - have you looked at them? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mar 29 '20 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 Those articles are from before Juno. Maybe we discovered new things since? $\endgroup$ – usernumber Mar 30 '20 at 9:05

The Great red spot used to be bigger. Over the course of twentieth century, it lost half of its size and between 1996 to 2006, its area diminished by 15%. If the shrink rate is constant, then the spot will vanish within 20 years. However, computer simulation showed that Jovian weather is stable enough to sustain smaller red spots as Hubble space telescope showed two smaller red spots besides the great red spot indicating that small red spots will persist even if the Great red spot vanishes. The reason for this shrinkage is unknown but scientist suggested it has something to do with Jovian equivalent of global warming and climate change.

Unlike Earth, Jupiter does not have solid landmass so energy lost due to friction is out of question. This explains the long lasting nature of Jovian storms. The Great Red Spot is indeed long-lived, even by Jupiter standards. Researchers are able to pinpoint that Jovian storms that are located in cloud bands with the same direction of rotation tend to be longer lasting. So, the shrinkage of this spot might indicate that the spot is drifting from the clouds bands.

The Great Red Spot is confined by an eastward jet to its north and a westward jet to its south, confining the storm to a constant latitude. However, it has undergone considerable changes in longitude over time, and recent evidence suggests that its rate of westward longitudinal motion is increasing. The bands have also undergone little change in latitude over the time during which they have been observed. So, researchers suggested that this dynamic change of the cloud bands and drifting of the storm might be the reason for the change in the shape of The Great spot.

Although the reason has not been proved yet, researchers are trying to trace the evolution of the Great Red Spot, analyzing its size, shape, color, drift rate and storm’s internal wind speeds from the information available from spacecraft and hope they will provide an explanation in future.


  1. The Things that Nobody Knows: 501 Mysteries of Life, the Universe and Everything William Hartston, Atlantic Books Ltd, 2011.
  2. Celestial Calculations: A Gentle Introduction to Computational Astronomy, MIT Press, 2019.
  3. https://cosmosmagazine.com/space/jupiter-s-great-red-spot-is-shrinking/
  4. https://earthsky.org/space/jupiter-great-red-spot-getting-taller-as-it-shrinks
  5. Historical and Contemporary Trends in the Size, Drift, and Color of Jupiter's Great Red Spot by Simon et.al., The Astronomical Journal, Volume 155, Number 4, 2018 (link)

It is not only shrinking but also becoming taller at the same time. The Great Red Spot's color has been deepening, too, becoming intensely orange since 2014. Researchers aren't sure why that's happening, but it's possible that the chemicals which color the storm are being carried higher into the atmosphere as the spot stretches up.

  • $\begingroup$ It would be better if you provide some reference. $\endgroup$ – Nilay Ghosh Oct 22 '20 at 7:22
  • $\begingroup$ This raises another question : how do we measure the spot's height? $\endgroup$ – usernumber Oct 22 '20 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ I just went on and asked the question : astronomy.stackexchange.com/q/39482/9527 $\endgroup$ – usernumber Oct 22 '20 at 7:40

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