The mechanical greenhouse: Burial of heat by turbulence in hot jupiter atmospheres

Andrew N. Youdin, Jonathan L. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The intense irradiation received by hot Jupiters suppresses convection in the outer layers of their atmospheres and lowers their cooling rates. "Inflated" hot Jupiters, i.e., those with anomalously large transit radii, require additional sources of heat or suppressed cooling.We consider the effect of forced turbulent mixing in the radiative layer, which could be driven by atmospheric circulation or by another mechanism. Due to stable stratification in the atmosphere, forced turbulence drives a downward flux of heat. Weak turbulent mixing slows the cooling rate by this process, as if the planet were irradiated more intensely. Stronger turbulent mixing buries heat into the convective interior, provided the turbulence extends to the radiative-convective boundary. This inflates the planet until a balance is reached between the heat buried into and radiated from the interior. We also include the direct injection of heat due to the dissipation of turbulence or other effects. Such heating is already known to slow planetary cooling. We find that dissipation also enhances heat burial from mixing by lowering the threshold for turbulent mixing to drive heat into the interior. Strong turbulent mixing of heavy molecular species such as TiO may be necessary to explain stratospheric thermal inversions.We show that the amount of mixing required to loft TiO may overinflate the planet by our mechanism. This possible refutation of the TiO hypothesis deserves further study. Our inflation mechanism requires a deep stratified layer that only exists when the absorbed stellar flux greatly exceeds the intrinsic emitted flux. Thus, it would be less effective for more luminous brown dwarfs and for longer period gas giants, including Jupiter and Saturn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1113-1126
Number of pages14
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Diffusion
  • Opacity
  • Planet-star interactions
  • Planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • Radiative transfer
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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