Atmospheric dynamics of short-period extrasolar gas giant planets. I. Dependence of nightside temperature on opacity

Ian Dobbs-Dixon, D. N.C. Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


More than two dozen short-period Jupiter-mass gas giant planets have been discovered around nearby solar-type stars in recent years, several of which undergo transits, making them ideal for the detection and characterization of their atmospheres. Here we adopt a three-dimensional radiative hydrodynamical numerical scheme to simulate atmospheric circulation on close-in gas giant planets. In contrast to the conventional GCM and shallow water algorithms, this method does not assume quasi-hydrostatic equilibrium, and it approximates radiation transfer from optically thin to thick regions with flux-limited diffusion. In the first paper of this series, we consider synchronously spinning gas giants. We show that a full three-dimensional treatment, coupled with rotationally modified flows and an accurate treatment of radiation, yields a clear temperature transition at the terminator. Based on a series of numerical simulations with varying opacities, we show that the nightside temperature is a strong indicator of the opacity of the planetary atmosphere. Planetary atmospheres that maintain large interstellar opacities will exhibit large day-night temperature differences, while planets with reduced atmospheric opacities due to extensive grain growth and sedimentation will exhibit much more uniform temperatures throughout their photospheres. In addition to numerical results, we present a four-zone analytic approximation to explain this dependence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-525
Number of pages13
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2008


  • Hydrodynamics
  • Planets and satellites: general
  • Radiative transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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