Size of Raindrops Help Identify Potentially Habitable Planets Outside Our Solar System - SciTechDaily
Apr 06, 2021 1 min, 24 secs

In a recent paper published in JGR Planets, Harvard researchers found that raindrops are remarkably similar across different planetary environments, even planets as drastically different as Earth and Jupiter.

Understanding the behavior of raindrops on other planets is key to not only revealing the ancient climate on planets like Mars but identifying potentially habitable planets outside our solar system.

“The lifecycle of clouds is really important when we think about planet habitability,” said Kaitlyn Loftus, a graduate student in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and lead author of the paper.

“If we understand how individual raindrops behave, we can better represent rainfall in complex climate models.”.

An essential aspect of raindrop behavior, at least to climate modelers, is whether or not the raindrop makes it to the surface of the planet because water in the atmosphere plays a big role in planetary climate.

“The insights we gain from thinking about raindrops and clouds in diverse environments are key to understanding exoplanet habitability.”.

By taking all of these properties into account, Loftus and Wordsworth found that across a wide range of planetary conditions, the math of raindrop falling means only a very small fraction of the possible drop sizes in a cloud can reach the surface.

“The insights we gain from thinking about raindrops and clouds in diverse environments are key to understanding exoplanet habitability,” said Wordsworth.

“In the long term, they can also help us gain a deeper understanding of the climate of Earth itself.”.

Reference: “The Physics of Falling Raindrops in Diverse Planetary Atmospheres” by Kaitlyn Loftus and Robin D.

Wordsworth, 15 March 2021, JGR Planets.

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