Publications associated with Planetary Science

Thermodynamic and energetic limits on continental silicate weathering strongly impact the climate and habitability of wet, rocky worlds

Astrophysical Journal American Astronomical Society 896 (2020) 115

R Graham, R Pierrehumbert

The “liquid water habitable zone” (HZ) concept is predicated on the ability of the silicate weathering feedback to stabilize climate across a wide range of instellations. However, representations of silicate weathering used in current estimates of the effective outer edge of the HZ do not account for the thermodynamic limit on concentration of weathering products in runoff set by clay precipitation, nor for the energetic limit on precipitation set by planetary instellation. We find that when the thermodynamic limit is included in an idealized coupled climate/weathering model, steady-state planetary climate loses sensitivity to silicate dissolution kinetics, becoming sensitive to temperature primarily through the effect of temperature on runoff and to pCO2 through an effect on solute concentration mediated by pH. This increases sensitivity to land fraction, CO2 outgassing, and geological factors such as soil age and lithology, all of which are found to have a profound effect on the position of the effective outer edge of the HZ. The interplay between runoff sensitivity and the energetic limit on precipitation leads to novel warm states in the outer reaches of the HZ, owing to the decoupling of temperature and precipitation. We discuss strategies for detecting the signature of silicate weathering feedback through exoplanet observations in light of insights derived from the revised picture of weathering.

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