Clouds in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets
I. Climatic effects of multi-layered clouds for Earth-like planets and implications for habitable zones
D. Kitzmann1, A. B. C. Patzer1, P. von Paris2, M. Godolt1, B. Stracke2, S. Gebauer1, J. L. Grenfell1 and H. Rauer1,2
Zentrum für Astronomie und Astrophysik, Technische Universität Berlin,
Hardenbergstr. 36, 10623 Berlin, Germany e-mail: email@example.com
2 Institut für Planetenforschung, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Rutherfordstr. 2, 12489 Berlin, Germany
Accepted: 22 December 2009
Aims. The effects of multi-layered clouds in the atmospheres of Earth-like planets orbiting different types of stars are studied. The radiative effects of cloud particles are directly correlated with their wavelength-dependent optical properties. Therefore the incident stellar spectra may play an important role for the climatic effect of clouds. We discuss the influence of clouds with mean properties measured in the Earth's atmosphere on the surface temperatures and Bond albedos of Earth-like planets orbiting different types of main sequence dwarf stars. The influence of clouds on the position of the habitable zone around these central star types is discussed.
Methods. A parametric cloud model has been developed based on observations in the Earth's atmosphere. The corresponding optical properties of the cloud particles are calculated with the Mie theory accounting for shape effects of ice particles by the equivalent sphere method. The parametric cloud model is linked with a one-dimensional radiative-convective climate model to study the effect of clouds on the surface temperature and the Bond albedo of Earth-like planets in dependence of the type of central star.
Results. The albedo effect of the low-level clouds depends only weakly on the incident stellar spectra because the optical properties remain almost constant in the wavelength range of the maximum of the incident stellar radiation. The greenhouse effect of the high-level clouds on the other hand depends on the temperature of the lower atmosphere, which is itself an indirect consequence of the different types of central stars. In general the planetary Bond albedo increases with the cloud cover of either cloud type. An anomaly was found for the K and M-type stars however, resulting in a decreasing Bond albedo with increasing cloud cover for certain atmospheric conditions. Depending on the cloud properties, the position of the habitable zone can be located either farther from or closer to the central star. As a rule, low-level water clouds lead to a decrease of distance because of their albedo effect, while the high-level ice clouds lead to an increase in distance. The maximum variations are about decrease and increase in distance compared to the clear sky case for the same mean Earth surface conditions in each case.
Key words: planetary systems / atmospheric effects / astrobiology
© ESO, 2010