Inferring the Mean Thickness of the Outer Ice Shell of
Enceladus from Diurnal Crustal Deformation
The thickness of the outer ice shell plays an important role in several geodynamical processes at ocean worlds. Here, we show that observations of tidally-driven diurnal surface displacements can constrain the mean ice shell thickness. Such estimates are sensitive to any significant structural features that break spherical symmetry such as faults and lateral variation in ice shell thickness and structure. We develop a finite-element model of Enceladus to calculate diurnal tidal displacements for a range of mean crustal thickness values in the presence of such structural heterogeneities. Consistent with results from prior studies, we find that the presence of variations in ice shell thickness can significantly amplify deformation in thinned regions. If major faults are also activated by tidal forcing ---such as Tiger Stripes on Enceladus---their characteristic surface displacement patterns could easily be measured using modern geodetic methods. Within the family of Enceladus models explored, estimates of mean crustal thickness that assume spherical symmetry a priori can deviate from the true value by as much as ~41% when structural heterogeneities are present. Additionally, we show that crustal heterogeneites near the South Pole produce differences of up to 35% between Love numbers evaluated at different spherical harmonic orders. A ~41% range in estimates of mean crustal thickness from Love numbers is smaller than that found with approaches relying on static gravity and topography (~250%) or analyzing diurnal libration amplitudes (~ 85%) to infer mean crustal thickness at Enceladus. As such, we find that analysis of diurnal tidal deformation is a relatively robust approach to inferring mean crustal thickness.