Tidal venuses: Triggering a climate catastrophe via tidal heating

Rory Barnes, Kristina Mullins, Colin Goldblatt, Victoria S. Meadows, James F. Kasting, René Heller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

56 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Traditionally, stellar radiation has been the only heat source considered capable of determining global climate on long timescales. Here, we show that terrestrial exoplanets orbiting low-mass stars may be tidally heated at high-enough levels to induce a runaway greenhouse for a long-enough duration for all the hydrogen to escape. Without hydrogen, the planet no longer has water and cannot support life. We call these planets "Tidal Venuses" and the phenomenon a "tidal greenhouse." Tidal effects also circularize the orbit, which decreases tidal heating. Hence, some planets may form with large eccentricity, with its accompanying large tidal heating, and lose their water, but eventually settle into nearly circular orbits (i.e., with negligible tidal heating) in the habitable zone (HZ). However, these planets are not habitable, as past tidal heating desiccated them, and hence should not be ranked highly for detailed follow-up observations aimed at detecting biosignatures. We simulated the evolution of hypothetical planetary systems in a quasi-continuous parameter distribution and found that we could constrain the history of the system by statistical arguments. Planets orbiting stars with masses<0.3 MSun may be in danger of desiccation via tidal heating. We have applied these concepts to Gl 667C c, a ∼4.5 MEarth planet orbiting a 0.3 M Sun star at 0.12 AU. We found that it probably did not lose its water via tidal heating, as orbital stability is unlikely for the high eccentricities required for the tidal greenhouse. As the inner edge of the HZ is defined by the onset of a runaway or moist greenhouse powered by radiation, our results represent a fundamental revision to the HZ for noncircular orbits. In the appendices we review (a) the moist and runaway greenhouses, (b) hydrogen escape, (c) stellar mass-radius and mass-luminosity relations, (d) terrestrial planet mass-radius relations, and (e) linear tidal theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-250
Number of pages26
JournalAstrobiology
Volume13
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013

Fingerprint

Planets
Climate
Heating
greenhouses
climate
planets
planet
heating
heat
Homeless Youth
orbits
Orbit
hydrogen
Hydrogen
radius (bone)
eccentricity
stars
Planetary Evolution
escape
Water

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

Cite this

Barnes, R., Mullins, K., Goldblatt, C., Meadows, V. S., Kasting, J. F., & Heller, R. (2013). Tidal venuses: Triggering a climate catastrophe via tidal heating. Astrobiology, 13(3), 225-250. https://doi.org/10.1089/ast.2012.0851
Barnes, Rory ; Mullins, Kristina ; Goldblatt, Colin ; Meadows, Victoria S. ; Kasting, James F. ; Heller, René. / Tidal venuses : Triggering a climate catastrophe via tidal heating. In: Astrobiology. 2013 ; Vol. 13, No. 3. pp. 225-250.
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Barnes, R, Mullins, K, Goldblatt, C, Meadows, VS, Kasting, JF & Heller, R 2013, 'Tidal venuses: Triggering a climate catastrophe via tidal heating', Astrobiology, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 225-250. https://doi.org/10.1089/ast.2012.0851

Tidal venuses : Triggering a climate catastrophe via tidal heating. / Barnes, Rory; Mullins, Kristina; Goldblatt, Colin; Meadows, Victoria S.; Kasting, James F.; Heller, René.

In: Astrobiology, Vol. 13, No. 3, 01.03.2013, p. 225-250.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Barnes R, Mullins K, Goldblatt C, Meadows VS, Kasting JF, Heller R. Tidal venuses: Triggering a climate catastrophe via tidal heating. Astrobiology. 2013 Mar 1;13(3):225-250. https://doi.org/10.1089/ast.2012.0851