in a recent paper by G. L. Bjoraker et al. (1), applying the techniques described earlier (2) it was announced that inside Jupiter's Great Red Spot water clouds were found, using infrared and near-infrared radiation data from the Keck 2 telescope at the Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
The so-called Great Red Spot (GRS) is a persistent high-pressure region in the atmosphere of Jupiter, producing an anticyclonic storm south of the planet's equator that is well detectable and has created attention since decades (3). From older observation we can assume, that this storm is existing since at least 350 years and until today it still remains a mystery!
Here a time lapse video with the GRS south of Jupiter´s center as viewn by the Voyager 1 probe in 1979:
NASA [Public domain]
This pic shows a more detailed view. The white oval directly below the GRS has app. the diameter of the earth!
NASA [Public domain]
So what does it mean that for the first time water clouds were found in this region?
According to the Clemson University astrophysicist Máté Ádámkovics this discovery may lead to a "greater understanding of the planet, its atmosphere and whether it ever held life" (4).
In the past, NASA believed that the planet's "environment is probably not conducive to life as we know it," (by the way, one of its larger moons, Europa, is one of the likeliest places to find life elsewhere in the solar system, according to NASA).
Now, with the new finding, it still appears very unlikely, but life on Jupiter is no longer beyond the range of possibilities, because in principle, where there’s the potential for liquid water, the possibility of life cannot be completely ruled out!
The level of water found in absolute numbers is high, but not compared to Jupiter´s size. Jupiter is a gas giant with a mass more than twice the mass of all of other planets combined, so the fact that it contains many times more water than on Earth is not that surprising. However, the majority of Jupiters atmosphere consists of hydrogen and helium.
Apart from the probability on the existence of life (which got a significant boost now), the discovery may help to further unravel the whereabouts of Jupiter´s extreme storms (5). The fact that there are no continents and mountains below Jupiter’s atmosphere to obstruct the path of it´s atmospheric formations is just one of the reasons the planet’s atmosphere is so turbulent compared to ours. The assumption is now that water may play a critical role in Jupiter’s dynamic weather patterns.