Exoplanet Atmospheres and Giant Ground-Based Telescopes
The study of extrasolar planets has rapidly expanded to encompass the search for new planets, measurements of sizes and masses, models of planetary interiors, planetary demographics and occurrence frequencies, the characterization of planetary orbits and dynamics, and studies of these worlds' complex atmospheres. Our insights into exoplanets dramatically advance whenever improved tools and techniques become available, and surely the largest tools now being planned are the optical/infrared Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs). Two themes summarize the advantages of atmospheric studies with the ELTs: high angular resolution when operating at the diffraction limit and high spectral resolution enabled by the unprecedented collecting area of these large telescopes. This brief review describes new opportunities afforded by the ELTs to study the composition, structure, dynamics, and evolution of these planets' atmospheres, while specifically focusing on some of the most compelling atmospheric science cases for four qualitatively different planet populations: highly irradiated gas giants, young, hot giant planets, old, cold gas giants, and small planets and Earth analogs.