New research published today in the journal Astrobiology shows the vital role of oceans in moderating climate on Earth-like planets.
Until now, computer simulations of habitable climates on Earth-like planets have focused on their atmospheres. But the presence of oceans is vital for optimal climate stability and habitability.
“Oceans have an immense capacity to control climate. They are beneficial because they cause the surface temperature to respond very slowly to seasonal changes in solar heating. And they help ensure that temperature swings across a planet are kept to tolerable levels.
“We found that heat transported by oceans would have a major impact on the temperature distribution across a planet, and would potentially allow a greater area of a planet to be habitable.
“Mars for example is in the sun’s habitable zone, but it has no oceans — causing air temperatures to swing over a range of 100OC. 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.
The study is: The Importance of Planetary Rotation Period for Ocean Heat Transport (public access).
On this model, we would be hearing about very many fewer exoplanets teeming with life, but the story would be more likely to be worth following.
See also: Don’t let Mars fool you. Those exoplanets teem with life!
How do we grapple with the idea that ET might not be out there?
New Scientist: The “first life-friendly planet” may not even exist
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