Recent studies have shown that clouds made of carbon dioxide ice may have warmed the surface of early Mars by reflecting not only incoming solar radiation but upwelling IR radiation as well. However, these studies have not treated scattering self-consistently in the thermal IR. Our own calculations, which treat IR scattering properly, confirm these earlier calculations but show that CO2 clouds can also cool the surface, especially if they are low and optically thick. Estimating the actual effect of CO2 clouds on early martian climate will require three-dimensional models in which cloud location, height, and optical depth, as well as surface temperature and pressure, are determined self-consistently. Our calculations further confirm that CO2 clouds should extend the outer boundary of the habitable zone around a star but that there is still a finite limit beyond which above-freezing surface temperatures cannot be maintained by a CO2-H2O atmosphere. For our own Solar System, the absolute outer edge of the habitable zone is at ~2.4 AU.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science