Enshrouding Universe

February 15, 2011

The Earth’s rotation has a profound impact on the environment. The friction of the moon’s orbit has been slowing down the rotation of the Earth very slowly over the last four billion years, and this has had a mediating effect on the velocity of atmospheric currents. Not only does the speed of our rotation influence the severity of our weather, but for Areios, the three small moons have less of a drag on the planet’s rotation, so Areios would rotate faster than Earth and has more intense weather patterns associated with a more vigorously churning atmosphere. The Coriolis Effect deflects the motion of our atmospheric currents, causing air currents to deflect towards the east in the Northern hemisphere and to the west in the southern hemisphere. While wind is generated by heating, it’s the Coriolis Effect that creates the prevailing winds we see at different latitudes. The weather on Areios has a more pronounced Coriolis Effect and because Areios rotates in a clockwise direction when seen from above (while the Earth rotates in a counter-clockwise direction), Areios would see winds deflected to the left in the Northern hemisphere instead of to the right like on Earth. Areios has a 256-day year as it revolves around Hemera and a 16 hour day that whips the atmosphere around creating monstrous storms over the planet. Most importantly, this vigorous atmosphere mixes the air currents so that the temperature on the planet is averaged out a bit more. Especially because Areios rotates on its side, the heat distribution around the planet can be at either extreme during winter and summer, where one side of planet is in darkness for weeks on end and the other side is scorched in perpetual sunlight for weeks on end. This would create a tremendous amount of evaporation, fueling intense hurricane activity where one side of the planet is experiencing summer.

During the summer months, Areios is at aphelion with Hemera, meaning that the planet is at its farthest approach from the star and during the winter months, the planet is at perihelion, or its closest approach to Hemera. The planet’s tilt determines the weather most significantly. The Earth’s atmosphere is made up of five distinct layers, much like on Areios. The layer of the atmosphere closest to the surface is called troposphere; this is where most of the atmosphere is contained and where all life and weather takes place within. As the altitude increases, we reach a point where the troposphere’s composition changes and makes way for the stratosphere. The stratosphere is where our ozone layer is located, which is important for keeping UV radiation from leaking into our atmosphere and causing higher incidents of cancer. Above the stratosphere is the mesosphere, where most asteroids will burn up upon reentry. And the outermost layer of the thermosphere contains the ionosphere where radio waves arriving from the surface get bounced off ionized particles in this layer and reverberated back down to Earth. Now beyond this ionosphere is the exosphere where the earth’s gravity effective gives away to outer space and the atmosphere stops. Unlike early Areios, the Earth has a magnetosphere that traps dangerous particles put off by the Sun; the magnetic field is generated by the rotation of the planet’s inner and outer core, which is influenced by the presence of our Sun, and its own magnetism and spinning core. Areios does not have this phenomenon at first because its hotter interior doesn’t form two distinct layers in the core until billions of years after its formation. Once the interior cools though, disparate motions of two distinct layers in the core will produce a magnetic field for Areios, which will help to prevent Hemera’s radiation from stripping away the atmosphere and bombarding the surface of the planet with ionized particles.

The early Areiosan troposphere is thick with smog; frequent lightning brought on by vigorous storms whip the atmosphere into a soup of chemicals that blocks out some of Hemera’s already dim light. While high levels of sulfur dioxide scatter the incoming solar radiation, carbon dioxide and water vapor spewed from volcanic eruptions trap what little heat is created and keep the oceans from frosting over. Areios’ greater mass means that it will retain lighter gases like hydrogen and helium, which escaped the Earth’s atmosphere early in the planet’s formation. This hydrogen becomes an important foodstuff for early life and contributes to the reducing environment of early Areios that makes the planet viable for the creation of life. As Hemera ages, it will warm up the cold planet, but until then, the atmosphere’s greenhouse effect suffices to keep Areios from becoming an ice world. The stratosphere is the most distinctly different; with no ozone layer to protect Areiosan life from UV radiation, the surface of the planet is still a dangerous place even with a hazy atmosphere obscuring light. The first life on Areios lives in the ocean before photosynthesis produces the oxygen that will make an ozone layer.

The Earth's magnetosphere deflects our Sun's solar wind, preventing charged particles from reaching the surface.


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