Habitable Zones & Global Climate

Atmospheric Circulation and Climate of Terrestrial Planets Orbiting Sun-like and M-dwarf Stars

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
January 3, 2019
Filed under
Atmospheric Circulation and Climate of Terrestrial Planets Orbiting Sun-like and M-dwarf Stars
Terrestrial Planet

The recent detections of temperate terrestrial planets orbiting nearby stars and the promise of characterizing their atmospheres motivates a need to understand how the diversity of possible planetary parameters affects the climate of terrestrial planets.

In this work, we investigate the atmospheric circulation and climate of terrestrial exoplanets orbiting both Sun-like and M-dwarf stars over a wide swath of possible planetary parameters, including the planetary rotation period, surface pressure, incident stellar flux, surface gravity, planetary radius, and cloud particle size. We do so using a general circulation model (GCM) that includes non-grey radiative transfer and the effects of clouds.

The results from this suite of simulations generally show qualitatively similar dependencies of circulation and climate on planetary parameters as idealized GCMs, with quantitative differences due to the inclusion of additional model physics. Notably, we find that the effective cloud particle size is a key unknown parameter that can greatly affect the climate of terrestrial exoplanets. We confirm a transition between low and high dayside cloud coverage of synchronously rotating terrestrial planets with increasing rotation period. We determine that this cloud transition is due to eddy-driven convergence near the substellar point and should not be parameterization-dependent.

Finally, we compute full-phase light curves from our simulations of planets orbiting M-dwarf stars, finding that changing incident stellar flux and rotation period affect observable properties of terrestrial exoplanets. Our GCM results can guide expectations for planetary climate over the broad range of possible terrestrial exoplanets that will be observed with future space telescopes.

The atmospheric circulation and climate of terrestrial planets orbiting Sun-like and M-dwarf stars over a broad range of planetary parameters

Thaddeus D. Komacek, Dorian S. Abbot

(Submitted on 3 Jan 2019)
Comments: Accepted at ApJ, 21 pages, 19 figures, 5 tables
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1901.00567 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1901.00567v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Thaddeus Komacek
[v1] Thu, 3 Jan 2019 00:59:40 UTC (8,651 KB)

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) 🖖🏻