Simulations suggests Venus may once have had an ocean

August 2, 2017 by Bob Yirka, report

Credit: NASA
(—A team of researchers with Université Paris-Saclay has found evidence suggesting that the planet Venus may once have had an ocean. In their paper published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, the group describes entering a multitude of data into a computer simulation and running it using different parameters, showing the likelihood that Venus once had a thick cloud cover and a thin ocean.

The planet Venus today has a barren landscape and is extremely hot—likely too hot to harbor life. But the researchers with this new effort believe that at some point in the distant past, there was enough over the planet to make surface conditions cool enough to support an .

As the researchers note, Venus rotates very slowly compared to Earth—one Venus day takes approximately 116 days on Earth. This is one of the factors the researchers took into consideration as they built their model. They also added other factors such as carbon dioxide levels, heat from the sun and estimated water on the planet—along with data from prior work resulting in theories regarding how planets form. Most such theories suggest that rocky planets like Venus would have been extremely hot during their early stages due to the energy involved in their formation. The researchers assumed that was the case for Venus and attempted to recreate those early conditions in their simulation to show what might have happened as the planet cooled.

The researchers note that if early Venus had the same amount of as today, it would be enough to allow for water to exist on the surface under cooler conditions—and if there were sufficient cloud cover, the simulation showed, the planet would need just 30 percent of the mass of the Earth's oceans to form its own shallow ocean. The researchers acknowledge that the computer simulations do not prove Venus had an ocean, but instead merely suggest it was possible. To date, multiple craft have made landings on the planet's surface (the Soviet Union's Venera series in the 1970s and early 1980s) but none were capable of digging beneath the surface to see how much water was there, if any. If enough was found, it would strongly bolster theories regarding the possibility of an ancient ocean.

Explore further: Mystery of rare volcanoes on Venus

More information: A. Salvador et al. The relative influence of H2 O and CO2 on the primitive surface conditions and evolution of rocky planets, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets (2017). DOI: 10.1002/2017JE005286

How the volatile content influences the primordial surface conditions of terrestrial planets and, thus, their future geodynamic evolution is an important question to answer. We simulate the secular convective cooling of a 1-D magma ocean (MO) in interaction with its outgassed atmosphere. The heat transfer in the atmosphere is computed either using the grey approximation or using a k-correlated method. We vary the initial CO2 and H2O contents (respectively from 0.1 × 10−2 to 14 × 10−2 wt % and from 0.03 to 1.4 times the Earth Ocean current mass) and the solar distance—from 0.63 to 1.30 AU. A first rapid cooling stage, where efficient MO cooling and degassing take place, producing the atmosphere, is followed by a second quasi steady state where the heat flux balance is dominated by the solar flux. The end of the rapid cooling stage (ERCS) is reached when the mantle heat flux becomes negligible compared to the absorbed solar flux. The resulting surface conditions at ERCS, including water ocean's formation, strongly depend both on the initial volatile content and solar distance D. For D > DC, the "critical distance," the volatile content controls water condensation and a new scaling law is derived for the water condensation limit. Although today's Venus is located beyond DC due to its high albedo, its high CO2/H2O ratio prevents any water ocean formation. Depending on the formation time of its cloud cover and resulting albedo, only 0.3 Earth ocean mass might be sufficient to form a water ocean on early Venus.

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1 / 5 (1) Aug 02, 2017
So, what happened to the ocean in that very first day when the Sun was overhead for 116 Earth days long.

The ocean would have accumulated solar energy at such a rate that by the half-way through that very first day, it had already boiled away to the atmosphere.
not rated yet Aug 02, 2017
So, what happened to the ocean in that very first day when the Sun was overhead for 116 Earth days long.

On the putative "very first day" the Sun was but "a bright star in the nighttime", ie. quite dim, perhaps 10% of its current output. So they tell me.
1 / 5 (5) Aug 07, 2017
Simulations have also shown that Mario and Luigi can jump over mushrooms and rolling barrels chucked by Donkey Kong, but what difference does it make for science? These computer games are meaningless.
3.3 / 5 (7) Aug 07, 2017
Simulations have also shown that Mario and Luigi can jump over mushrooms and rolling barrels chucked by Donkey Kong, but what difference does it make for science? These computer games are meaningless.

Not as meaningless as believing that it was spat out of Jupiter, and then proceeded to do handbrake turns around the solar system, all within human memory! Now, that would be silly. However, nobody in their right mind would believe nonsense like that, would they?
5 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2017
So, what happened to the ocean in that very first day when the Sun was overhead for 116 Earth days long.

On the other side of the planet, it was 116 days of night. So presumably, it would have moved within the atmosphere to the other dark, presumably colder, side, and perhaps condensed, I'd guess.

I'd be more interested to know if Venus adopted its very abnormal rotation before or after this possible ocean as well. (I don't know enough about the leading theory of why Venus rotates the way it does to speculate one way or the other)

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