Tuesday, December 7

When Floods Hit Earth: Here’s How Our Planet’s Past Helps Us Understand Planets Beyond the Solar System


“Massive, torrential, terrifying storms: storms hundreds of kilometers wide capable of draining almost half a meter of water in a few hours“That is the result that climate models offer when we ask them what happened when extreme heat was our daily bread.

Researchers have been modeling the history of the Earth for many years to understand the atmosphere well and outline the models that help us predict what will happen in the near future. In that, this work is not new. The interesting thing comes more from the result than from the methodology. Unintentionally, these Harvard researchers they have come face to face with a “new and completely unexpected atmospheric state” that not only helps us to know our planet better, but also it will allow us to look at the atmospheric dynamics of exoplanets in a different way.

“A huge battery” of water about to explode

“If you could see the tropical regions at the same time, you would realize that it is always raining somewhere,” he explained. Jacob Seeley, a climate scientist at Harvard University. What we “found is that in extremely hot climates” these storms are at their best. “There could be several days without rain anywhere and all of a sudden a massive storm would break out that would reach all regions simultaneously and be capable of dumping an enormous amount of rain“in a very short time. Then the” silence for a couple of days “would come and start over.

As I said at the beginning, this is not research on current climate change. For this to happen, the researchers had to increase atmospheric CO2 levels 64 times or increase the brightness of the Sun by 10% that receives the Earth. Thus, the temperatures would reach up to 54 degrees; something that is very far from our reality, but not so far from the dozens of planets that we are finding in outer space.

What happens at these temperatures is that a “layer of inhibition” is created., a layer of water vapor that prevents convective clouds (and forms rain clouds). This traps moisture very close to the surface until evaporation breaks the balance and causes a deluge of almost biblical proportions.

For practical purposes, the researchers explain, it’s like charging “a huge battery”: cold accumulates on top of the inhibition layer and heat, below; whenever something breaks that barrier, the storm breaks out. When the storm calms down, the cycle begins again. but beyond that, this finding is further proof that the best strategy to understand well what we see outside the solar system is to understand well what happened in ours.



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