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Stabilizing Cloud Feedback on Tidally Locked Planets

5 May 2014, 22:00 UTC
Stabilizing Cloud Feedback on Tidally Locked Planets
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The habitable zone (HZ) is a region around a star where it is neither too hot nor too cold for a planet to sustain liquid water on its surface. It is marked by an inner edge (before it starts to get too hot) and an outer edge (before it starts to get too cold). For a given star, many factors influence where the inner and outer edges of the HZ may lie. When evaluating the habitability of a planet, the presence of water clouds can have a huge influence. Water clouds can either reflect incoming stellar radiation back to space (cooling the planet) or absorb and re-radiate thermal emission from the planet’s surface (warming the planet). In most cases, reflection of stellar radiation (cooling) dominates over absorption of planetary infrared radiation (warming), resulting in net cooling.Figure 1: Artist’s impression of a habitable planet. Image credit: Fernando Rodrigues.A study by Yang et al. (2013) used 3D general circulation models (GCMs) to understand the impact of water clouds on planets around red dwarf stars. In particular, the study focused on planets near the inner edge of the HZ. Red dwarf stars are by far the most abundant type of star in the ...

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