Solar and CO2-induced forcing pose similar threats to habitability


For the first time Dr. Max Popp, Dr. Hauke Schmidt and Prof. Jochem Marotzke, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M), show in a new study in Nature Communications with a 3D atmospheric model that CO2-induced forcing poses an equal threat to the habitability of an Earth-like planet as does solar forcing.

Forcings of the magnitude considered in this study are unlikely to occur in the near future on Earth, but are expected to occur over the magnitude of several tens to hundreds of millions of years. Therefore, the study assesses the long-term habitability of Earth. The results suggest that the state in which Earth is now, will eventually terminate in a climate transition which will bring an Earth-like planet to a new stable climate with global-mean surface temperatures exceeding 60° C. This climate transition is caused by changes in cloud-dynamics that first destabilize the climate, but then help stabilize the climate again at global-mean surface temperatures above 55° C. The new hot climate is very stable against further forcing, which suggests that a planet could maintain this hot climate for a very long time. Moreover the results even suggest that if the initial forcing that caused the planet to go into this hot climate is removed, the planet may still remain in the hot climate. The planet would eventually become uninhabitable over a period of hundreds of millions to a few billion years, because the water either would be lost to space over that time or water would become unstable at the surface.

Original publication:
Popp, M., H. Schmidt and J. Marotzke: Transition to a Moist Greenhouse with CO2 and solar forcing. Nat. Commun. 7:10627, Opens external link in current windowdoi: 10.1038/ncomms10627 (2016).


Dr. Max Popp
New affiliation: Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program, Princeton University , Princeton, NJ | located at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ
Phone: +1 609-452-5301
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Dr. Hauke Schmidt
Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
Phone: +49 (0) 40 41173 405
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