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Hydrohalite Salt-albedo Feedback Could Cool M-dwarf Planets


A possible surface type that may form in the environments of M-dwarf planets is sodium chloride dihydrate, or "hydrohalite" (NaCl • 2H2O), which can precipitate in bare sea ice at low temperatures. Unlike salt-free water ice, hydrohalite is highly reflective in the near-infrared, where M-dwarf stars emit strongly, making the effect of the interaction between hydrohalite and the M-dwarf spectral energy distribution necessary to quantify. We carried out the first exploration of the climatic effect of hydrohalite-induced salt-albedo feedback on extrasolar planets, using a three-dimensional global climate model. Under fixed CO2 conditions, rapidly rotating habitable-zone M-dwarf planets receiving 65% or less of the modern solar constant from their host stars exhibit cooler temperatures when an albedo parameterization for hydrohalite is included in climate simulations, compared to simulations without such a parameterization. Differences in global mean surface temperature with and without this parameterization increase as the instellation is lowered, which may increase CO2 build-up requirements for habitable conditions on planets with active carbon cycles. Synchronously rotating habitable-zone M-dwarf planets appear susceptible to salt-albedo feedback at higher levels of instellation (90% or less of the modern solar constant) than planets with Earth-like rotation periods, due to their cooler minimum dayside temperatures. These instellation levels where hydrohalite seems most relevant correspond to several recently discovered potentially habitable M-dwarf planets, including Proxima Centauri b, TRAPPIST-1e, and LHS 1140b, making an albedo parameterization for hydrohalite of immediate importance in future climate simulations.

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