Patchy Nightside Clouds on Ultra-hot Jupiters: General Circulation Model Simulations with Radiatively Active Cloud Tracers

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Komacek, Thaddeus
Tan, Xianyu
Gao, Peter
Lee, Elspeth
Related Publication Citation
Komacek & Tan, Gao & Lee (2022), The Astrophysical Journal, 934:79 (31 pp), 2022 July 20
The atmospheres of ultra-hot Jupiters have been characterized in detail through recent phase curve and low- and high-resolution emission and transmission spectroscopic observations. Previous numerical studies have analyzed the effect of the localized recombination of hydrogen on the atmospheric dynamics and heat transport of ultra-hot Jupiters, finding that hydrogen dissociation and recombination lead to a reduction in the day-to-night contrasts of ultra-hot Jupiters relative to previous expectations. In this work, we add to previous efforts by also considering the localized condensation of clouds in the atmospheres of ultra-hot Jupiters, their resulting transport by the atmospheric circulation, and the radiative feedback of clouds on the atmospheric dynamics. To do so, we include radiatively active cloud tracers into the existing MITgcm framework for simulating the atmospheric dynamics of ultra-hot Jupiters. We take cloud condensate properties appropriate for the high-temperature condensate corundum from CARMA cloud microphysics models. We conduct a suite of general circulation model (GCM) simulations with varying cloud microphysical and radiative properties, and we find that partial cloud coverage is a ubiquitous outcome of our simulations. This patchy cloud distribution is inherently set by atmospheric dynamics in addition to equilibrium cloud condensation, and causes a cloud greenhouse effect that warms the atmosphere below the cloud deck. Nightside clouds are further sequestered at depth due to a dynamically induced high-altitude thermal inversion. We post-process our GCMs with the Monte Carlo radiative transfer code gCMCRT and find that the patchy clouds on ultra-hot Jupiters do not significantly impact transmission spectra but can affect their phase-dependent emission spectra.
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