Water Trapping on Tidally Locked Terrestrial Planets Requires Special Conditions

Surface liquid water is essential for standard planetary habitability.

Calculations of atmospheric circulation on tidally locked planets around M stars suggest that this peculiar orbital configuration lends itself to the trapping of large amounts of water in kilometers-thick ice on the night side, potentially removing all liquid water from the day side where photosynthesis is possible. We study this problem using a global climate model including coupled atmosphere, ocean, land, and sea-ice components as well as a continental ice sheet model driven by the climate model output. For a waterworld we find that surface winds transport sea ice toward the day side and the ocean carries heat toward the night side.

As a result, night-side sea ice remains O(10 m) thick and night-side water trapping is insignificant. If a planet has large continents on its night side, they can grow ice sheets O(1000 m) thick if the geothermal heat flux is similar to Earth's or smaller. Planets with a water complement similar to Earth's would therefore experience a large decrease in sea level when plate tectonics drives their continents onto the night side, but would not experience complete day-side dessication. Only planets with a geothermal heat flux lower than Earth's, much of their surface covered by continents, and a surface water reservoir O(10 %) of Earth's would be susceptible to complete water trapping.

Jun Yang, Yonggang Liu, Yongyun Hu, Dorian S. Abbot (Submitted on 3 Nov 2014)

Comments: 9 pages, 5 figures, The Astrophysical Journal Letters (accepted)

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1411.0540 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1411.0540v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history From: Jun Yang [v1] Mon, 3 Nov 2014 16:01:33 GMT (3651kb) http://arxiv.org/abs/1411.0540

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