Live fast, die young: GMC lifetimes in the FIRE cosmological simulations of Milky Way mass galaxies
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/staa2116
We present the first measurement of the lifetimes of giant molecular clouds (GMCs) in cosmological simulations at z = 0, using the Latte suite of FIRE-2 simulations of Milky Way (MW) mass galaxies. We track GMCs with total gas mass ≳105 M⊙ at high spatial (∼1 pc), mass (7100 M⊙), and temporal (1 Myr) resolution. Our simulated GMCs are consistent with the distribution of masses for massive GMCs in the MW and nearby galaxies. We find GMC lifetimes of 5-7 Myr, or 1-2 freefall times, on average, with less than 2 per cent of clouds living longer than 20 Myr. We find decreasing GMC lifetimes with increasing virial parameter, and weakly increasing GMC lifetimes with galactocentric radius, implying that environment affects the evolutionary cycle of GMCs. However, our GMC lifetimes show no systematic dependence on GMC mass or amount of star formation. These results are broadly consistent with inferences from the literature and provide an initial investigation into ultimately understanding the physical processes that govern GMC lifetimes in a cosmological setting.