UEA: Oceans moderate the climate
Story submitted by Eric Worrall
h/t The Register – University of East Anglia researchers have challenged the view that any planet in the Goldilocks zone (the right distance from a star so water is likely to be liquid) is likely to be habitable.
New research shows that without an ocean, and the right rate of rotation, a planet is likely to experience extremes of temperature which make it unlikely to harbour life.
From the Abstract; http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ast.2014.1171
“The climate and, hence, potential habitability of a planet crucially depends on how its atmospheric and ocean circulation transports heat from warmer to cooler regions. However, previous studies of planetary climate have concentrated on modeling the dynamics of atmospheres, while dramatically simplifying the treatment of oceans, which neglects or misrepresents the effect of the ocean in the total heat transport. Even the majority of studies with a dynamic ocean have used a simple so-called aquaplanet that has no continental barriers, which is a configuration that dramatically changes the ocean dynamics.
Here, the significance of the response of poleward ocean heat transport to planetary rotation period is shown with a simple meridional barrier—the simplest representation of any continental configuration. The poleward ocean heat transport increases significantly as the planetary rotation period is increased. The peak heat transport more than doubles when the rotation period is increased by a factor of ten. There are also significant changes to ocean temperature at depth, with implications for the carbon cycle. There is strong agreement between the model results and a scale analysis of the governing equations. This result highlights the importance of both planetary rotation period and the ocean circulation when considering planetary habitability.”
According to Dr. David Stevens, from UEA school of mathematics;
“Mars for example is in the sun’s habitable zone, but it has no oceans – causing air temperatures to swing over a range of 100°C. Oceans help to make a planet’s climate more stable, so factoring them into climate models is vital for knowing whether the planet could develop and sustain life,”