Publications by Raymond Pierrehumbert


Water loss from terrestrial planets with CO<inf>2</inf>-rich atmospheres

Astrophysical Journal 778 (2013)

RD Wordsworth, RT Pierrehumbert

Water photolysis and hydrogen loss from the upper atmospheres of terrestrial planets is of fundamental importance to climate evolution but remains poorly understood in general. Here we present a range of calculations we performed to study the dependence of water loss rates from terrestrial planets on a range of atmospheric and external parameters. We show that CO 2 can only cause significant water loss by increasing surface temperatures over a narrow range of conditions, with cooling of the middle and upper atmosphere acting as a bottleneck on escape in other circumstances. Around G-stars, efficient loss only occurs on planets with intermediate CO 2 atmospheric partial pressures (0.1-1 bar) that receive a net flux close to the critical runaway greenhouse limit. Because G-star total luminosity increases with time but X-ray and ultraviolet/ultravoilet luminosity decreases, this places strong limits on water loss for planets like Earth. In contrast, for a CO 2 -rich early Venus, diffusion limits on water loss are only important if clouds caused strong cooling, implying that scenarios where the planet never had surface liquid water are indeed plausible. Around M-stars, water loss is primarily a function of orbital distance, with planets that absorb less flux than ∼270 W m -2 (global mean) unlikely to lose more than one Earth ocean of H 2 O over their lifetimes unless they lose all their atmospheric N 2 /CO 2 early on. Because of the variability of H 2 O delivery during accretion, our results suggest that many "Earth-like" exoplanets in the habitable zone may have ocean-covered surfaces, stable CO 2 /H 2 O-rich atmospheres, and high mean surface temperatures. © 2013. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..


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