An investigation of a super-Earth exoplanet with a greenhouse-gas atmosphere using a general circulation model
We use the Massachusetts Institute of Technology general circulation model (GCM) dynamical core, in conjunction with a Newtonian relaxation scheme that relaxes to a gray, analytical solution of the radiative transfer equation, to simulate a tidally locked, synchronously orbiting super-Earth exoplanet. This hypothetical exoplanet is simulated under the following main assumptions: (1) the size, mass, and orbital characteristics of GJ 1214b (Charbonneau, D. . Nature 462, 891-894), (2) a greenhouse-gas dominated atmosphere, (3), the gas properties of water vapor, and (4) a surface. We have performed a parameter sweep over global mean surface pressure (0.1, 1, 10, and 100 bar) and global mean surface albedo (0.1, 0.4, and 0.7). Given assumption (1) above, the period of rotation of this exoplanet is 1.58 Earth-days, which we classify as the rapidly rotating regime. Our parameter sweep differs from Heng and Vogt (Heng, K., Vogt, S.S. . Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 415, 2145-2157), who performed their study in the slowly rotating regime and using Held and Suarez (Held, I.M., Suarez, M.J. . Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 75 (10), 1825-1830) thermal forcing. This type of thermal forcing is a prescribed function, not related to any radiative transfer, used to benchmark Earth’s atmosphere. An equatorial, westerly, superrotating jet is a robust feature in our GCM results. This equatorial jet is westerly at all longitudes. At high latitudes, the flow is easterly. The zonal winds do show a change with global mean surface pressure. As global mean surface pressure increases, the speed of the equatorial jet decreases between 9 and 15 h local time (substellar point is located at 12 h local time). The latitudinal extent of the equatorial jet increases on the nightside. For the two greatest initial surface pressure cases, an increasingly westerly component of flow develops at middle to high latitudes between 11 and 18 h local time. On the nightside, the easterly flow in the midlatitudes also increases in speed as global mean surface pressure increases. Furthermore, the zonal wind speed in the equatorial and midlatitude jets decreases with increasing surface albedo. Also, the latitudinal width of the equatorial jet decreases as surface albedo increases.