Monday, January 25, 2016

Greenhouse Effects From Water Vapor Can Extend the Habitable Zone

A proposal for climate stability on H2-greenhouse planets


Abbot et al


A terrestrial planet in an orbit far outside of the standard habitable zone could maintain surface liquid water as a result of H2-H2 collision-induced absorption by a thick H2 atmosphere. Without a stabilizing climate feedback, however, habitability would be accidental and likely brief. In this letter I propose stabilizing climate feedbacks for such a planet that require only that biological functions have an optimal temperature and operate less efficiently at other temperatures. For example, on a planet with a net source of H2 from its interior, H2-consuming life (such as methanogens) could establish a stable climate. If a positive perturbation is added to the equilibrium temperature, H2 consumption by life will increase (cooling the planet) until the equilibrium climate is reestablished. The potential existence of such feedbacks makes H2-warmed planets more attractive astrobiological targets.

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