Habitable Zones & Global Climate

Habitability from Tidally-Induced Tectonics

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
March 20, 2018
Filed under
Habitability from Tidally-Induced Tectonics
Subduction Zone

The stability of Earth’s climate on geological timescales is enabled by the carbon-silicate cycle that acts as a negative feedback mechanism stabilizing surface temperatures via the intake and outgas of atmospheric carbon.

On Earth, this thermostat is enabled by plate tectonics that sequesters outgassed CO2 back into the mantle via weathering and subduction at convergent margins. Here we propose a separate tectonic mechanism — vertical recycling — that can serve as the vehicle for CO2 outgassing and sequestration over long timescales. The mechanism requires continuous tidal heating, which makes it particularly relevant to planets in the habitable zone of M stars.

Dynamical models of this vertical recycling scenario and stability analysis show that temperate climates stable over Gy timescales are realized for a variety of initial conditions, even as the M star dims over time. The magnitude of equilibrium surface temperatures depends on the interplay of sea weathering and outgassing, which in turn depends on planetary carbon content, so that planets with lower carbon budgets are favoured for temperate conditions. Habitability of planets such as found in the Trappist-1 may be rooted in tidally-driven tectonics.

Diana Valencia, Vivian Yun Yan Tan, Zachary Zajac
(Submitted on 19 Mar 2018)

Comments: 14 pages, 10 figures, Accepted in Astrophysical Journal
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1803.07040 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1803.07040v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Diana Valencia
[v1] Mon, 19 Mar 2018 17:10:11 GMT (3768kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻