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Constraining the Effect of Convective Inhibition on the Thermal Evolution of Uranus and Neptune

Markham, Steve and Stevenson, Dave (2021) Constraining the Effect of Convective Inhibition on the Thermal Evolution of Uranus and Neptune. Planetary Science Journal, 2 (4). Art. No. 146. ISSN 2632-3338. doi:10.3847/PSJ/ac091d.

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The internal heat flows of both Uranus and Neptune remain major outstanding problems in planetary science. Uranus's surprisingly cold effective temperature is inconsistent with adiabatic thermal evolution models, while Neptune's substantial internal heat flow is twice its received insolation. In this work, we constrain the magnitude of influence condensation, including latent heat and inhibition of convection, can have on the thermal evolution of these bodies. We find that while the effect can be significant, it is insufficient to solve the Uranus faintness problem on its own. Self-consistently considering the effects of both latent heat release and stable stratification, methane condensation can speed up the cooldown time of Uranus and Neptune by no more than 15%, assuming 5% molar methane abundance. Water condensation works in the opposite direction; water condensation can slow down the cooldown timescale of Uranus and Neptune by no more than 15%, assuming 12% molar water abundance. We also constrain the meteorological implications of convective inhibition. We demonstrate that sufficiently abundant condensates will relax to a state of radiative–convective equilibrium requiring finite activation energy to disrupt. We also comment on the importance of considering convective inhibition when modeling planetary interiors.

Item Type:Article
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Stevenson, Dave0000-0001-9432-7159
Additional Information:© 2021. The Author(s). Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI. Received 2020 September 22; revised 2021 May 24; accepted 2021 June 3; published 2021 August 3. This work has been funded by the NASA FINESST program, grant No. 80NSSC19K1520. This work has greatly benefited from the ISSI Ice Giants Science Team meetings of 2019 and 2020 in Bern. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback that greatly strengthened this work.
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Subject Keywords:Planetary interior; Planetary structure; Planetary atmospheres; Neptune; Uranus; Exoplanet evolution
Issue or Number:4
Classification Code:Unified Astronomy Thesaurus concepts: Planetary interior (1248); Planetary structure (1256); Planetary atmospheres (1244); Neptune (1096); Uranus (1751); Exoplanet evolution (491)
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210813-181202773
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Official Citation:Steve Markham and Dave Stevenson 2021 Planet. Sci. J. 2 146
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:110252
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:16 Aug 2021 14:23
Last Modified:16 Aug 2021 14:23

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