Turtle, E. P., Perry, J. E., McEwen, A. S., DelGenio, A. D., Barbara, J., West, R. A., Dawson, D. D., Porco, C. C. (2008). "Cassini Imaging Observations of Lakes and Clouds at Titan's High Latitudes and the Implications of the Changes Therein" Eos Trans. AGU, 89(53) Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract P21A-1330.


Abstract
Cassini's Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) imaged Titan's south polar region in July 2004 and June 2005, revealing convective cloud systems and dark surface features interpreted to be hydrocarbon lakes, e.g. 235- km-long Ontario Lacus (McEwen et al., B.A.A.S. 37, 2005). Recent evidence from Cassini's Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer supports the interpretation that Ontario Lacus contains liquid ethane and methane (Brown et al., Nature 454, 2008). Although diffuse clouds or atmospheric scattering could play a role, differences between the two ISS observations taken a year apart may be due to changes in the lakes as a result of precipitation from a large cloud system observed in Fall 2004 (Schaller et al., Icarus 182, 2006).

ISS observations of northern latitudes just emerging from northern winter have revealed much larger dark areas, including Mare Kraken (>1100 km long), as well as myriad smaller dark spots. Many of these features coincide with liquid-filled areas identified by Cassini RADAR (e.g., Lopes et al., EOS 88, 2007). Combined these features cover well over 600,000 km2, ~1% of Titan's surface area; however, as shown by Lorenz et al. (GRL 35, 2008), even if all were filled with liquid, they would not provide enough methane to keep Titan's atmosphere resupplied for a substantial amount of time, unless they are unexpectedly deep or other subsurface reservoirs exist. Intriguingly the surface coverage is unevenly distributed, with more total area and much larger seas occurring around the North (recently winter) Pole. The extents to which this variation depends on the season and/or local geology and its effects on atmospheric circulation may be revealed with the advent of northern spring and summer.