Exoplanets & Exomoons

Stabilization of Dayside Surface Liquid Water Via Tropopause Cold Trapping On Arid Slowly Rotating Tidally Locked Planets

By Keith Cowing
February 20, 2020
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Stabilization of Dayside Surface Liquid Water Via Tropopause Cold Trapping On Arid Slowly Rotating Tidally Locked Planets

Terrestrial-type exoplanets orbiting nearby red dwarf stars (M-dwarfs) are among the best targets for atmospheric characterization and biosignature searches in the near future.

Recent evolutionary studies have suggested that terrestrial planets in the habitable zone of M-dwarfs are probably tidally locked and have limited surface water inventories as a result of their host stars’ high early luminosities. Several previous climate simulations of such planets have indicated that their remaining water would be transported to the planet’s permanent nightside and become trapped as surface ice, leaving the dayside devoid of water.

Here we use a three-dimensional general circulation model with a water cycle and accurate radiative transfer scheme to investigate the surface water evolution on slowly rotating tidally locked terrestrial planets with limited surface water inventories. We show that there is a competition for water trapping between the nightside surface and the substellar tropopause in this type of climate system.

Although under some conditions the surface water remains trapped on the nightside as an ice sheet, in other cases liquid water stabilizes in a circular area in the substellar region as a wetland. Planets with 1 bar N2 and atmospheric CO2 levels greater than 0.1 bar retain stable dayside liquid water, even with very small surface water inventories. Our results reveal the diversity of possible climate states on terrestrial-type exoplanets and highlight the importance of surface liquid water detection techniques for future characterization efforts.

Feng Ding, Robin D. Wordsworth
(Submitted on 20 Feb 2020)
Comments: accepted for publication in ApJL
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics (physics.ao-ph)
Cite as: arXiv:2002.08600 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2002.08600v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Feng Ding
[v1] Thu, 20 Feb 2020 07:33:09 UTC (403 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) 🖖🏻