'Goldilocks zone' exoplanets would not be habitable without an ocean

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.

Source: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/07/21/exoplanet_habitability_study_says_planets_need_oceans_to_support_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,”

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Jaakko Kateenkorva

How about an ocean drying competition for the next earth hour?

FergalR

Has anyone cosidered searching for signs of intelligent life at the University of East Anglia?

Dr. Strangelove

“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.”
Russians live in Siberia where temperatures can swing over 90 C. Mars air temperature swing is not too bad if only it had air. Mars has virtually no atmosphere with atmospheric pressure less than 1% of earth. If you can’t even breathe, no use complaining about being too hot or too cold.

Kelvin Vaughan

Scientific box mentality. Next they will be saying “we were amazed to find”.

rogerthesurf

Cant have water without atmospheric pressure which presumably is related to the gravity/mass of the planet.
I think I learnt that in high school. Anyone disagree?
Cheers
Roger
http://www.rogerfromnewzealand.wordpress.com

David L

This all presumes that life can only exist as it does on earth. Life adapts to it’s environment. Who’s to say the extent of life’s adaptability? Here on earth we find life at all extremes, from steaming pools of water, to deep ocean hydrothermal vents, to freezing arctic conditions.

Mike T

I think the point about Mars is that temperatures swing through 100°C in the course of a day. Also, without oceans, one presumes that life would have difficulty “starting off” since almost all land animals and plants on this planet can trace their ancestry to aquatic forebears. While there are places on Earth, as noted, that swing through 90°C, that’s annually, not daily, and life towards the polar zones evolved elsewhere, moving into the polar niches because they were available and there was no competition. The polar bear is a good example of this.

Jaakko Kateenkorva

“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. ”
But that’s great. Martian atmosphere is over 95% carbon dioxide. And better still, NASA has about 30-folded their previous Martian CO2 ice mass estimations http://spaceref.com/onorbit/nasa-spacecraft-reveals-dramatic-changes-in-mars-atmosphere.html.
Surely the Martian temperature there swings, but when will the peak kick off the positive feedback to sublime all that CO2 into the Martian atmosphere permanently? Mars is claimed to have enough water to cover the planet at an average depth of 35 meters.
Now when CACA physics is settled and all, what’s stopping Obama’s favorite shrink to run his best models to forecast the birth of Martian oceans?

M Courtney

Jaakko Kateenkorva says at July 22, 2014 at 1:16 am

But that’s great. Martian atmosphere is over 95% carbon dioxide. And better still, NASA has about 30-folded their previous Martian CO2 ice mass estimations.

95% of not a lot is still not a lot.
Looking at other planets is interesting in its own right. There is really no need to look for practical applications at home.
It’s literally on another planet.

jones

Is there any uncertainty in this?

tty

Those great diurnal swings on Mars despite the atmosphere actually having more CO2 than Earth are due to the virtual absence of H2O, the really important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, as well as the absence of oceans with their massive heat capacity.
That said I’ve experienced diurnal swings of about 40 degrees Celsius in inland Australia where the air is very dry and the ocean far away. Probably even greater figures occur in e. g. Central Asia.
I agree that the configuration of continents and oceans and the resulting pattern of poleward heat transport is extremely important for global climate. So much is obvious from the geologic record, but it is rather odd to hear it from UEA, since it is not in accord with CAGW orthodoxy where CO2 is the one and only permitted control knob for climate.

So many systems within our environment, all interlocked and reacting with each other in such complex ways that even the experts (climate scientists) don’t fully understand all of it. But I’m damn sure they know a lot more than the collective minds of a cave full of “deniers” ; politicians, big biz, and the fruit loops.
Our climate has always varied within acceptable ranges, but the trends away from these figures is alarming.
A cartoon on the habitat of those who have trouble understanding reality . . . . . .
http://cartoonmick.wordpress.com/editorial-political/#jp-carousel-891
Cheers
Mick

cartoonmick says:
July 22, 2014 at 1:54 am
Oh we’re “flat earthers” again? Very nice. Very tolerant of opposing viewpoints there, mick. Did you spend all night thinking that one up?

One interesting fact about Mars, its atmosphere, which is mostly CO2, contains (by my calculation) more CO2 than Earth’s atmosphere.
According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Mars
… Mars’s atmospheric mass of 25 teratonnes compares to Earth’s 5148 teratonnes with a scale height of about 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) versus Earth’s 7 kilometres (4.3 mi). …
Given that CO2 on Earth is around 400ppm, a rough estimate of the mass of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere = 400 / 1000000 * 5148 = 2 teratonnes of CO2 – vs Mars’ 25 teratonnes of (mostly) CO2.
In addition, since the height of the Martian atmosphere is a lot less than Earth, all that Martian CO2 is more concentrated close to the surface, forming a much denser CO2 blanket than Earth enjoys.

SteveP

I would imagine that one of the necessary requirements for life on a planet is the existence of a magnetic field.

@ Dr. David Stevens, from UEA school: “….Oceans help to make a planet’s climate more stable…”
Dr. Stevens and colleagues will presumably need nother 100 years to understand that
“climate is the continuation of the ocean by other means”, http://www.whatisclimate.com/ ;
or in the words of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) “Water is the driver of nature”, of which on this planet the oceans hold 1000 times more than the atmosphere, but have only a mean temperature of about + 4°C.

Jaakko Kateenkorva

“Looking at other planets is interesting in its own right.”
How about cAGW favourite planet Venus? The temperature there is claimed to be pretty stable. Supposedly 460 °C day or night, at the poles or at the equator. Whether Venusian 0.002% water vapor is enough to theoretically make up an ocean there or not, it’s negligible enough to justify a request for best CACA hypothesis and models to be tested with Martian parameters.
Since cAGW seems to rely on laboratory experiments over observations at planetary scale, it would be interesting to see if/how e.g. the ideal gas law pV = nRT applies in their best models.

mike18xx

Without a large moon, a planet will not have a stable axis of rotation OR a strong magnetic field (assuming a partially liquid iron core). Without a strong magnetic field, solar radiation will gradually crack atmospheric water molecules and whisk the hydrogen away, eventually depleting the oceans. (Alternatively, the world would be a “waterball” with oceans hundreds of miles deep, with nutrient-deprived sterile surface layers.)
In short, a world similar to Earth will be vanishingly rare, because it will need a moon similar to ours, and those are formed by a very precisely-angled collision with a La Grange point sister planet. (The impact is also necessary to eject superdeep oceans and silicate mantels into orbit, leaving a basalt ball with a thin ocean suitable for plate tectonics.)

Goldie

Without a reasonable rate of rotation the planet would not generate enough of a magnetosphere to ward off the devastating effects of the solar wind and most of it’s atmosphere would be driven off in very short order. The lowering of atmospheric pressure would then cause the oceans to evaporate so whether it’s in the right zone or not, it still needs to rotate and have a liquid mantle with a solid core.
Equally without the balancing effect of a moon similar to ours the spin that would be needed would generate such a wobble that the environment would be highly unpredictable.
Of course there might be some form of life that we don’t yet understand that could tolerate all of this.

John M. Ware

I see that importance is laid on consistency of models–or at least lack of crippling discrepancies. Have the researchers compared their findings with actual data?

Anyone who doesn’t know yet that it is the mass of the atmosphere (and the distance from the Sun) that governs the global mean temperature on a planet, is part of the problem (and that includes WUWT, for seriously presenting this article, without acknowledging that larger context)–the problem being an insane breakdown of competence in science, as shown by the fragmented, fractious public “debate”. Venus has no ocean, but a hundred times the atmosphere of Earth, and a Venus/Earth temperature ratio (at points of equal pressure, over the range of Earth tropospheric pressures) that precisely reflects their relative distances from the Sun and nothing else (although Venus too–like Mars–has a 96.5% carbon dioxide atmosphere, compared to Earth’s 0.04%).
The problem now is, no one among the alarmists and lukewarmers wants to admit they are wrong, and that we are faced with no valid climate science and no competent climate scientists.

johnmarshall

Life started in the oceans so having large areas of water is probably important. Also there needs to be CO2 in the atmosphere because that is where the carbon came from for the carbon based life. I don’t think the mentioned this salient fact.

johnmarshall

# Eric Warrell
CO2 is labeled a GHG but that adsorption is accompanied by rapid radiation. So CO2 looses heat rapidly (a point lost on the alarmists) so any surface heat on Mars would rapidly radiate away. One reason why Mars is cold.

cedarhill

For centuries folks have debated what “animates” life asn in mixing stuff together and you have an organism which is “smart” enough to reproduce. Aristotle, Plato to Aquinas. Some seem to think that finding a planet simple show “animation” exists. Which, of course, avoids the original issue regarding how or creating the animation via experimentation. After all, no need to look when all the tools are at hand here and you likely don’t need lots and lots of very expensive astronomy hardware.
And why spend public funds on these pursuits? Wouldn’t it be better to simple have the government conduct things that can actually be useful to the, well, the public? Like Muslim outreach, for example? At least have a plebiscite.

Liquid Oceans are probably essential for some sort of life, but believe it or not multi-cell life needs “Plate Tectonics”. see Oxygen – provider of life

Greg Goodman

Of course, It is water in all it’s states that is the “control knob” not CO2.
This is so obvious it’s surprising that it needs restating. Thought clearly it does need restating in the current avalanche of BS science getting throught peer review.

Jaakko Kateenkorva

Were the basic assumptions tested with Neptune before the hypothesis was constructed? Neptune’s mantle is sometimes called a water–ammonia ocean, but still its temperatures vary between extremes of about -200 °C at 1 bar and 5,000 °C in the core.
In any case, Neptune sounds like an excellent candidate to study on planetary scale, not only heat transfer from warmer to cooler regions, but especially the practical impact of IR-absorption properties of methane (1.5 ± 0.5%). The winds accelerating close to supersonic speed should keep it’s concentration pretty constant in the local atmosphere.

RH

Another example of a scientist producing a model to validate his own fantasies. If Earth’s oceans disappeared tomorrow, does anyone doubt that life would remain somewhere on the planet for as long as there was any moisture at all?

I’d guess water is important if you want life on a planet. Duh. Especially if the atmosphere starts out with a lot CO2 that you’d like to get out of the atmosphere. Venus could have made great use of an ocean or two. I don’t know what the seasonal range of surface temps on Venus is. Moderated by the crushing atmosphere, worsened by the slow rotation rate. I doubt it’s 100C°.

What wonderful news! Our heroes!? Surely, England will reward such useful scientists?
UEA is so expert with overall global effects and their models are so spot on accurate that UEA can step out and tell us about other worlds and what makes those exo-planets habitable or not.
Useful scientists apply their hard earned accurate knowledge of Earth’s processes to useful fields of science for the betterment of mankind here on Earth.
UEA studies are replete with direct observations, hard data and well proved algorithms and the findings are replicable and falsifiable.
I assume UEA is defending their budget requests soon?

MarkW

rogerthesurf says:
July 22, 2014 at 12:56 am
————
Mars used to have an atmosphere, but lost it when it lost it’s magnetic field.
Of course how long the magnetic field lasts depends on how long the core stays fluid, which is related to mass.

MarkW

jones says:
July 22, 2014 at 1:50 am
Is there any uncertainty in this?
————————-
I’m not sure.

xyzzy11

cartoonmick says:
July 22, 2014 at 1:54 am
Our climate has always varied within acceptable ranges, but the trends away from these figures is alarming.
Really! what exactly are the trends away from “these figures” and what is alarming about them? Looks like business as usual to me.
And flat earthers? Give me a break!

MarkW

cartoonmick says:
July 22, 2014 at 1:54 am
—–
In the last million years, the earth has been both several degrees warmer and several degrees colder than today.
Yet you persist on believing that a change of a few tenths of a degree puts us all at risk.
And you complain about our scientific knowledge?

The energy flux in our system is from the Sun > ocean > ocean surface > atmosphere > space.
It is the interaction of the various energy transport mechanisms at the oceans surface that dominate and control the temperature and weather.
It is hard to imagine advanced life developing without the ocean surface interface zone.

First order, i.e., climate, effects, Earth’s atmosphere is a by-product of the ocean, warmed by the Sun.
Second order, cloud albedo. Third order, greenhouse effect. Fourth order, orbital mechanics. Fifth order, regional currents. Sixth order, eddy currents. Seventh order, weather. Unmeasurably small, anthropogenics.

Mick Says “But I’m damn sure they know a lot more than the collective minds of a cave full of “deniers” ; politicians, big biz, and the fruit loops.”
Well of course they know a lot more, which is why they have to work so hard to cover up what they know!
Cheers!

Alan Robertson

cartoonmick says:
July 22, 2014 at 1:54 am
Our climate has always varied within acceptable ranges, but the trends away from these figures is alarming.
____________________
I know that this isn’t your first appearance here in guise of an ignoramus troll, spewing insults. You not only threw insults at skeptics, but also linked to a cartoon inferring skeptics believe in a flat earth, neither of which were your original idea. You just showed the world that you let others do your thinking for you. You also invoked certain known logical fallacies to make your point. As further proof that you haven’t learned to think for yourself, you claim that climate signals are trending away from normal. Really? What is normal? Temperatures, sea level, whatever… all are within the known historical range. Feel free to prove that statement wrong. Find out for yourself.
Here’s another challenge for you: find one modern temperature data set which clearly shows a CO2 signal in the modern temperature record. Let’s make it easier… just go back for the last 20 years. Here’s a hint- there isn’t one. That’s right, after all the hoopla, there is not a single temperature record which clearly links the modern rise in CO2 to temperature. Don’t take my word for it, (as is your habit to do so,) find out for yourself.
You either want to find out the truth of things, or continue to exist comfortably within your shell of ignorance. A final challenge: consider that you just might not be as creative or smart as you think you are and then learn to do what it takes to improve your capacities for logic and reason. Then, you might not be so quick to publicly lash out at others and declare yourself a fool.

Leonard Weinstein

The retention of a planetary atmosphere depends on the mass of the planet and temperatures encountered. The mass of Mars is so low that escape velocity is low enough that H2O, H2, O2, and N2 can leak into space by a range of processes. Initial water vapor in Mars atmosphere is dissociated by UV (as in Earths upper atmosphere), so H2 is quickly lost. The O2 and N2 are more slowly lost but eventually diffuse high enough to be ionized as in our ionosphere, and are lost by high end velocity of the Maxwellian distribution exceeding escape velocity and also blown off by solar wind. CO2 is lost much more slowly, so dominates the remaining atmosphere. Water is mainly retained in underground ice formations.

Our climate has always varied within acceptable ranges, but the trends away from these figures is alarming.
=======================
20 thousand years ago much of where we live today was under a mile of ice. 8 thousand years ago the arctic was ice free. further back in time, Antarctica was ice free. Yet the change in average temperature that caused this is no more than the change in many places day to day and year to year.
there is no such thing as “acceptable ranges” in climate.

Leonard Weinstein

I need to add (as a previous commenter did) that the loss of Mars magnetic field was also critical to solar wind being able to remove Mars atmosphere. Earth’s magnetic field appears to be heading for a reversal soon, and will likely go to near zero for a while, but transient loss has little effect on atmosphere, it is long term average. However, the loss would affect power transmission and communication.

There is an interesting book: “Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe” by Peter D Ward & Donald Brownlee which gives some insight into the conditions which may favour the development of life and complex life. Worth a read if you’ve not yet come across it.

William Yarber

I believe a far more important factor is a magnetic field generated by a spinning liquid iron core. Mar’s core has cooled and is solid, so it doesn’t have a magnetic shield. That is why Mars may never be inhabitable for humans! The solar wind and the Sun’s radiation continuously bombard the surface of Mars, making it as hazardous as living in space. What is the chance of developing an agriculture required to support a population. Probably small to nil. And without a magnetic shield, Mars will never be able to retain a viable atmosphere.
Earth is very unique in many ways. There are probably millions of similar planets in our galaxy. However, until we develop true space travel technology (like .8x speed of light), this discussion is only an academic exercise.
Bill

it is the mass of the atmosphere (and the distance from the Sun) that governs the global mean temperature on a planet
====================
likely gravity also plays a part. it would be interesting to see if doubling the amount of N2 in earth’s atmosphere would in theory change temperatures. according to GHG theory it should not. yet it is hard to imagine that an atmosphere nearly twice as massive would have no effect.

When one considers that all the towels produced since the beginning of the industrial revolution are probably sufficient to dry up all the world’s oceans, it’s clear that the planet is in mortal danger unless we implement a special cap-and-trade tax on towels and other instruments of mass absorption.
That’s where this is headed, so let’s get out in front of it and get us some of that taxpayer cheese.

“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 as we know it.”
There, fixed it.

Gary Pearse

I hope they don’t use disgraced UEA scientists to decide on which exoplanet we should spend 10 trillion on to check it out. They would appear, along with their fellows at Hadley, to have little understanding of the earth’s climate. I’m still tee’d off that I sent 5000 containers of barbeques to UK as a speculative investment. I’ve converted them all to heaters but I’ll still take a big hit on the deal.

JohnWho says:
July 22, 2014 at 6:52 am
“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 as we know it, JIM”
Fixed your fix.

More accurate to say that life as we know it on the surface of a planet is unlikely? I can easily envision life underground using the thermal mass of the rock/soil above it to even out the temperature swings, for example. sulfur vents for energy, yadda yadda. It’s not nearly as cut-and-dried as they make it out to be… they start with an assumption and disregard every possibility that disagrees with the starting premise. (hmm… sounds familiar…)

Joseph Murphy

David L says:
July 22, 2014 at 1:00 am
This all presumes that life can only exist as it does on earth. Life adapts to it’s environment. Who’s to say the extent of life’s adaptability? Here on earth we find life at all extremes, from steaming pools of water, to deep ocean hydrothermal vents, to freezing arctic conditions.
—————————————————-
And you presume it to do more. We only have one example of life existing on a planet, so it is the evidence that we have. It follows that life in one area of the planet can not be segregated from another to demonstrate a range of habital planets. Your criticism applies to your comment as much as it does to the article. Talking about life on other planets is pure speculation. You happen to prefer your speculation over theirs.