Kaitlyn Loftus and Robin Wordsworth. 4/2021. “The Physics of Falling Raindrops in Diverse Planetary Atmospheres.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The evolution of a single raindrop falling below a cloud is governed by fluid dynamics and thermodynamics fundamentally transferable to planetary atmospheres beyond modern Earth's. Here, we show how three properties that characterize falling raindrops—raindrop shape, terminal velocity, and evaporation rate—can be calculated as a function of raindrop size in any planetary atmosphere. We demonstrate that these simple, interrelated characteristics tightly bound the possible size range of raindrops in a given atmosphere, independently of poorly understood growth mechanisms. By returning to the physics equations governing raindrop falling and evaporation, we demonstrate that raindrop ability to vertically transport latent heat and condensible mass can be well captured by a new non-dimensional number. Our results have implications for precipitation efficiency, convective storm dynamics, and rainfall rates, which are properties of interest for understanding planetary radiative balance and (in the case of terrestrial planets) rainfall-driven surface erosion.
Kaitlyn Loftus, Robin Wordsworth, and Caroline Morley. 12/2019. “Sulfate Aerosol Hazes and SO2 Gas as Constraints on Rocky Exoplanets’ Surface Liquid Water.” The Astrophysical Journal, 887, 2, Pp. 231. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Despite surface liquid water's importance to habitability, observationally diagnosing its presence or absence on exoplanets is still an open problem. Inspired within the Solar System by the differing sulfur cycles on Venus and Earth, we investigate thick sulfate (H2SO4-H2O) aerosol haze and high trace mixing ratios of SO2 gas as observable atmospheric features whose sustained existence is linked to the near absence of surface liquid water. We examine the fundamentals of the sulfur cycle on a rocky planet with an ocean and an atmosphere in which the dominant forms of sulfur are SO2 gas and H2SO4-H2O aerosols (as on Earth and Venus). We build a simple but robust model of the wet, oxidized sulfur cycle to determine the critical amounts of sulfur in the atmosphere-ocean system required for detectable levels of SO2 and a detectable haze layer. We demonstrate that for physically realistic ocean pH values (pH > 6) and conservative assumptions on volcanic outgassing, chemistry, and aerosol microphysics, surface liquid water reservoirs with greater than 10-3 Earth oceans are incompatible with a sustained observable H2SO4-H2O haze layer and sustained observable levels of SO2. Thus, we propose the observational detection of a H2SO4-H2O haze layer and of SO2 gas as two new remote indicators that a planet does not host significant surface liquid water.