Astrophys J 2019 Oct 14;884(1). Epub 2019 Oct 14.
NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025, USA.
The potential habitability of known exoplanets is often categorized by a nominal equilibrium temperature assuming a Bond albedo of either ∼0.3, similar to Earth, or 0. As an indicator of habitability, this leaves much to be desired, because albedos of other planets can be very different, and because surface temperature exceeds equilibrium temperature due to the atmospheric greenhouse effect. We use an ensemble of general circulation model simulations to show that for a range of habitable planets, much of the variability of Bond albedo, equilibrium temperature and even surface temperature can be predicted with useful accuracy from incident stellar flux and stellar temperature, two known parameters for every confirmed exoplanet. Earth's Bond albedo is near the minimum possible for habitable planets orbiting G stars, because of increasing contributions from clouds and sea ice/snow at higher and lower instellations, respectively. For habitable M star planets, Bond albedo is usually lower than Earth's because of near-IR HO absorption, except at high instellation where clouds are important. We apply relationships derived from this behavior to several known exoplanets to derive zeroth-order estimates of their potential habitability. More expansive multivariate statistical models that include currently non-observable parameters show that greenhouse gas variations produce significant variance in albedo and surface temperature, while increasing length of day and land fraction decrease surface temperature; insights for other parameters are limited by our sampling. We discuss how emerging information from global climate models might resolve some degeneracies and help focus scarce observing resources on the most promising planets.