Buildup of Abiotic Oxygen and Ozone in Moist Atmospheres of Temperate Terrestrial Exoplanets and its Impact on the Spectral Fingerprint in Transit Obs

Status Report From: e-Print archive
Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Armin Kleinböhl, Karen Willacy, A. James Friedson, Pin Chen, Mark R. Swain
(Submitted on 25 May 2018)

We investigate the abiotic production of oxygen and its photochemical byproduct ozone through water vapor photolysis in moist atmospheres of temperate terrestrial exoplanets.

The amount of water vapor available for photolysis in the middle atmosphere of a planet can be limited by an atmospheric cold-trap, the formation of which largely depends on the amount of non-condensable gases. We study this effect using a photochemical model coupled to a 1D radiative-convective equilibrium model in atmospheres with N2, CO2 and H2O as the main constituents. We find that in atmospheres with a low N2 inventory, water vapor mixing ratios in the middle atmosphere can be over two orders of magnitude higher compared to atmospheres with an Earth-like N2 inventory. Without a strong surface sink, the non-condensable oxygen can build up rapidly, drying out the upper atmosphere. With a moderate surface sink, the planet can approach a steady state with significant oxygen mixing ratios in which oxygen production is balanced by surface uptake.

We use a radiative transfer model to study the spectroscopic fingerprint of these atmospheres in transit observations. Spectral signatures of abiotic oxygen and ozone can be of comparable magnitude as in spectra of Earth seen as an exoplanet. Middle atmospheric water vapor is unlikely to be a usable indicator of the abiotic origin of oxygen because of the influence of oxygen on the water vapor distribution. This suggests that atmospheric oxygen and ozone cannot be used as binary bioindicators and their interpretation will likely require atmospheric and planetary models.

Comments:    16 pages, 10 figures
Subjects:    Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as:    arXiv:1805.10332 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1805.10332v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Armin Kleinboehl
[v1] Fri, 25 May 2018 19:05:56 GMT (734kb,D)

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