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Beyond Earthly Skies

Ice Sheets on Hot Desert Planets

5 Apr 2013, 07:29 UTC
Ice Sheets on Hot Desert Planets
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For a planet like the Earth, water plays a fundamental role in the global climate system. Today, the Earth is in radiative equilibrium balance where the insolation it receives from the Sun is balanced by outgoing infrared emission from the planet’s surface. This gives the Earth an average surface temperature of 288 K or 15 degrees Centigrade. If the Earth were closer to the Sun, it will receive a greater amount of insolation from the Sun and this will heat up the planet, causing more water vapour to be released into the atmosphere. The increase in atmospheric water vapour brings about a stronger greenhouse effect. This causes the Earth to give off more infrared radiation to balance the larger insolation it is getting from the Sun. As a result, if the Earth were nearer to the Sun, it will settle into a new radiative equilibrium balance with a somewhat higher mean surface temperature.Nevertheless, there is a minimum distance a planet like the Earth can be from its parent star before the amount of insolation received by the planet becomes so great that radiative equilibrium balance can never be achieved. Any closer than this minimum distance, the planet undergoes what is ...

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