Response of Earth's atmosphere to increases in solar flux and implications for loss of water from Venus

James F. Kasting, James B. Pollack, Thomas P. Ackerman

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146 Scopus citations


A one-dimensional radiative-convective model is used to compute temperature and water vapor profiles as functions of solar flux for an Earth-like atmosphere. The troposphere is assumed to be fully saturated, with a moist adiabatic lapse rate, and changes in cloudiness are neglected. Predicted surface temperatures increase monotonically from -1 to 111°C as the solar flux increased from 0.81 to 1.45 times its present value. Surface temperatures corresponding to high solar fluxes may be underestimated, however, owing to neglect of H2O continuum absorption outside of the 8- to 12-μm window region. These results imply that the surface temperature of a primitive water-rich Venus should have been at least 80-100°C and may have been much higher. The existence of liquid water at the surface depends on poorly known aspects of H2O continuum absorption and on uncertainties concerning relative humidity and cloudiness. In any case, water vapor should have been a major atmospheric constituent at all altitudes, leading to the rapid hydrodynamic escape of hydrogen. The oxygen left behind by this process was presumably consumed by reactions with reduced minerals in the crust. Both the loss of oxygen and the presently observed enrichment of the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio are most easily explained if oceans of liquid water were initially present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-355
Number of pages21
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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