Europlanet Science Congress 2021
Virtual meeting
13 – 24 September 2021
Europlanet Science Congress 2021
Virtual meeting
13 September – 24 September 2021
EPSC Abstracts
Vol. 15, EPSC2021-270, 2021
European Planetary Science Congress 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Abundance of water oceans on high-density exoplanets from coupled interior-atmosphere modeling

Philipp Baumeister1, Nicola Tosi1, Jasmine MacKenzie2, and John Lee Grenfell1
Philipp Baumeister et al.
  • 1Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Institut für Planetenphysik, Berlin, Germany (
  • 2Technische Universität Berlin, Zentrum für Astronomie und Astrophysik, Berlin, Germany

Liquid water is generally assumed to be the most important factor for the emergence of life, and so a major goal in exoplanet science is the search for planets with water oceans. On terrestrial planets, the silicate mantle is a large source of water, which can be outgassed into the atmosphere via volcanism. Outgassing is subject to a series of feedback processes between atmosphere and interior, which continually shape both atmospheric composition, pressure, and temperature, as well as interior dynamics. For example, water has a high solubility in surface lava, which can strongly limit its outgassing into the atmosphere even at low atmospheric pressures. In contrast, CO2 can be easily outgassed. This drives up the surface pressure and temperature, potentially preventing further water outgassing [1].

We present the results of an extensive parameter study, where we use a newly developed 1D numerical model to simulate the coupled evolution of the atmosphere and interior of terrestrial exoplanets up to 5 Earth masses around Sun-like stars, with internal structures ranging from Moon- to Mercury-like. The model accounts for the main mechanisms controlling the global-scale, long-term evolution of stagnant-lid rocky planets (i.e. bodies without plate tectonics), and it includes a large number of atmosphere-interior feedback processes, such as a CO2 weathering cycle, volcanic outgassing based on the pressure-dependent solubility of volatiles in surface lava, a water cycle between ocean and atmosphere, greenhouse heating, as well as the influence of a primordial H2 atmosphere, which can be lost through escape processes. While many atmosphere-interior feedback processes have been studied before in detail (e.g. [2, 3]), we present here a comprehensive model combining the important planetary processes across a wide range of terrestrial planets.

We find that a significant majority of high-density exoplanets (i.e. Mercury-like planets with large cores) are able to outgas and sustain water on their surface. In contrast, most planets with intermediate, Earth-like densities either transition into a runaway greenhouse regime due to strong CO2 outgassing, or retain part of their primordial atmosphere, which prevents water from being outgassed. This suggests that high-density planets could be the most promising targets when searching for suitable candidates for hosting liquid water. Furthermore, the degeneracy of the interior structures of high-density planets is limited compared to that of planets with Earth-like density, which further facilitates the characterization of these bodies, and our results predict largely uniform atmospheric compositions across the range of high-density planets, which could be verified by future spectroscopic measurements.



[1] Tosi, N. et al. The habitability of a stagnant-lid earth. A&A 605, A71 (2017).

[2] Noack, L., Rivoldini, A. & Van Hoolst, T. Volcanism and outgassing of stagnant-lid planets: Implications for the habitable zone. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors 269, 40–57 (2017).

[3] Foley, B. J. & Smye, A. J. Carbon Cycling and Habitability of Earth-Sized Stagnant Lid Planets. Astrobiology 18, 873–896 (2018).

How to cite: Baumeister, P., Tosi, N., MacKenzie, J., and Grenfell, J. L.: Abundance of water oceans on high-density exoplanets from coupled interior-atmosphere modeling, European Planetary Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-270,, 2021.