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An Analytic Radiative-Convective Model for Planetary Atmospheres

By Tyler D. Robinson and David C. Catling


We present an analytic 1-D radiative-convective model of the thermal structure of planetary atmospheres. Our model assumes that thermal radiative transfer is gray and can be represented by the two-stream approximation. Model atmospheres are assumed to be in hydrostatic equilibrium, with a power law scaling between the atmospheric pressure and the gray thermal optical depth. The convective portions of our models are taken to follow adiabats that account for condensation of volatiles through a scaling parameter to the dry adiabat. By combining these assumptions, we produce simple, analytic expressions that allow calculations of the atmospheric pressure-temperature profile, as well as expressions for the profiles of thermal radiative flux and convective flux. We explore the general behaviors of our model. These investigations encompass (1) worlds where atmospheric attenuation of sunlight is weak, which we show tend to have relatively high radiative-convective boundaries, (2) worlds with some attenuation of sunlight throughout the atmosphere, which we show can produce either shallow or deep radiative-convective boundaries, depending on the strength of sunlight attenuation, and (3) strongly irradiated giant planets (including Hot Jupiters), where we explore the conditions under which these worlds acquire detached convective regions in their mid-tropospheres. Finally, we validate our model and demonstrate its utility through comparisons to the average observed thermal structure of Venus, Jupiter, and Titan, and by comparing computed flux profiles to more complex models.Comment: 57 pages, 1 table, 13 figures; journal-formatted version at:

Topics: Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics
Publisher: 'IOP Publishing'
Year: 2012
DOI identifier: 10.1088/0004-637X/757/1/104
OAI identifier:

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