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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 9, issue 2 | Copyright
Earth Syst. Dynam., 9, 739-756, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 07 Jun 2018

Research article | 07 Jun 2018

Two drastically different climate states on an Earth-like terra-planet

Sirisha Kalidindi1,2, Christian H. Reick1, Thomas Raddatz1, and Martin Claussen1,3 Sirisha Kalidindi et al.
  • 1Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Bundesstraße 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
  • 2International Max Planck Research School on Earth System Modelling, Bundesstraße 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
  • 3Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability, Universität Hamburg, Bundesstraße 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. We study an Earth-like terra-planet (water-limited terrestrial planet) with an overland recycling mechanism bringing fresh water back from the high latitudes to the low latitudes. By performing model simulations for such a planet we find two drastically different climate states for the same set of boundary conditions and parameter values: a cold and wet (CW) state with dominant low-latitude precipitation and a hot and dry (HD) state with only high-latitude precipitation. We notice that for perpetual equinox conditions, both climate states are stable below a certain threshold value of background soil albedo while above the threshold only the CW state is stable. Starting from the HD state and increasing background soil albedo above the threshold causes an abrupt shift from the HD state to the CW state resulting in a sudden cooling of about 35°C globally, which is of the order of the temperature difference between present day and the Snowball Earth state. When albedo starting from the CW state is reduced down to zero the terra-planet does not shift back to the HD state (no closed hysteresis). This is due to the high cloud cover in the CW state hiding the surface from solar irradiation so that surface albedo has only a minor effect on the top of the atmosphere radiation balance. Additional simulations with present-day Earth's obliquity all lead to the CW state, suggesting a similar abrupt transition from the HD state to the CW state when increasing obliquity from zero. Our study also has implications for the habitability of Earth-like terra-planets. At the inner edge of the habitable zone, the higher cloud cover in the CW state cools the planet and may prevent the onset of a runaway greenhouse state. At the outer edge, the resupply of water at low latitudes stabilizes the greenhouse effect and keeps the planet in the HD state and may prevent water from getting trapped at high latitudes in frozen form. Overall, the existence of bistability in the presence of an overland recycling mechanism hints at the possibility of a wider habitable zone for Earth-like terra-planets at low obliquities.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Using climate simulations, we investigate the role of water recycling in shaping the climate of low-obliquity Earth-like terra-planets. By such a mechanism feeding water back from the extra-tropics to the tropics, the planet can assume two drastically different climate states differing by more than 35 K in global temperature. We describe the bifurcation between the two states occurring upon changes in surface albedo and argue that the bistability hints at a wider habitable zone for such planets.
Using climate simulations, we investigate the role of water recycling in shaping the climate of...