Habitable Zones & Global Climate

Runaway Climate Cooling Of Ocean Planets In The Habitable Zone

By Keith Cowing
July 1, 2019
Filed under
Runaway Climate Cooling Of Ocean Planets In The Habitable Zone
Ocean World

Terrestrial planets covered globally with thick oceans (termed ocean planets) in the habitable zone were previously inferred to have extremely hot climates in most cases.

This is because H2O high-pressure (HP) ice on the seafloor prevents chemical weathering and, thus, removal of atmospheric CO2. Previous studies, however, ignored melting of the HP ice and horizontal variation in heat flux from oceanic crusts. Here we examine whether high heat fluxes near the mid-ocean ridge melts the HP ice and thereby removes atmospheric CO2. We develop integrated climate models of an Earth-size ocean planet with plate tectonics for different ocean masses, which include the effects of HP ice melting, seafloor weathering, and the carbonate-silicate geochemical carbon cycle.

We find that the heat flux near the mid-ocean ridge is high enough to melt the ice, enabling seafloor weathering. In contrast to the previous theoretical prediction, we show that climates of terrestrial planets with massive oceans lapse into extremely cold ones (or snowball states) with CO2-poor atmospheres. Such extremely cold climates are achieved mainly because the HP ice melting fixes seafloor temperature at the melting temperature, thereby keeping a high weathering flux regardless of surface temperature. We estimate that ocean planets with oceans several tens of the Earth’s ocean mass no longer maintain temperate climates. These results suggest that terrestrial planets with extremely cold climates exist even in the habitable zone beyond the solar system, given the frequency of water-rich planets predicted by planet formation theories.

Runaway climate cooling of ocean planets in the habitable zone: a consequence of seafloor weathering enhanced by melting of high-pressure ice

Akifumi Nakayama, Takanori kodama, Masahiro Ikoma, Yutaka Abe
(Submitted on 1 Jul 2019)

Comments: 19 pages, 9 figures, accepted for publication in MNRAS
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1907.00827 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1907.00827v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Akifumi Nakayama
[v1] Mon, 1 Jul 2019 14:37:00 UTC (2,012 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) 🖖🏻