Habitable Zones & Global Climate

How do Planetary Radius and Gravity Influence the Surface Climate of Earth-like Planets?

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
October 15, 2019
Filed under
How do Planetary Radius and Gravity Influence the Surface Climate of Earth-like Planets?
Planetary radius and gravity distribution of several confirmed exoplanets. The values of Earth and Mars and the uncertainties are shown. The black line represents the theory relation with a core mass fraction of Earth’s value, 0.26 (Zeng et al. 2016).

About 4000 exoplanets have been confirmed since the year of 1992, and for most of the planets, the main parameters that can be measured are planetary radius and mass.

Based on these two parameters, surface gravity can be estimated. In this work, we investigate the effects of varying radius and gravity on the climate of rapidly rotating terrestrial planets with assuming they have an ocean and Earth-like atmospheres (N2, CO2, and H2O). Using a three-dimensional (3D) atmospheric general circulation model (GCM), we find that varying radius mainly influences the equator-to-pole surface temperature difference while varying gravity mainly influences the mean surface temperature. For planets of larger radii, the meridional atmospheric energy transport is weaker, which warms the tropics but cools high latitudes.

For planets of larger gravities, the surface is globally cooler due to the fact that saturated vapor pressure depends on air temperature only and column water vapor mass is approximately equal to saturated vapor pressure over gravity multiplied by relative humidity. The relative humidity does not change much in our experiments. Ice albedo and water vapor feedbacks act to further amplify the effects of varying radius and gravity.

These results suggest that radius and gravity are important factors for planetary climate, although they are not as critical as stellar flux, atmospheric composition and mass, and rotation rate. Future simulations are required to know how large the radius and gravity could influence the width of the habitable zone using 3D GCMs.

Huanzhou Yang, Jun Yang
(Submitted on 15 Oct 2019)

Comments: 15 pages, 5 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1910.06479 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1910.06479v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Huanzhou Yang
[v1] Tue, 15 Oct 2019 01:56:34 UTC (1,865 KB)

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