The effect of internal gravity waves on cloud evolution in sub-stellar atmospheres

A. Parent*, R. E. Falconer, G. K. H. Lee, K. A. Meyer, C. R. Stark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
126 Downloads (Pure)


Context. Sub-stellar objects exhibit photometric variability which is believed to be caused by a number of processes such as magnetically-driven spots or inhomogeneous cloud coverage. Recent sub-stellar models have shown that turbulent flows and waves, including internal gravity waves, may play an important role in cloud evolution.

Aims. The aim of this paper is to investigate the effect of internal gravity waves on dust cloud nucleation and dust growth, and whether observations of the resulting cloud structures could be used to recover atmospheric density information.

Methods. For a simplified atmosphere in two dimensions, we numerically solve the governing fluid equations to simulate the effect on dust nucleation and mantle growth as a result of the passage of an internal gravity wave. Furthermore, we derive an expression that relates the properties of the wave-induced cloud structures to observable parameters in order to deduce the atmospheric density.

Results. Numerical simulations show that the density, pressure and temperature variations caused by gravity waves lead to an increase of dust nucleation by up to a factor 20, and dust mantle growth rate by up to a factor 1:6, compared to their equilibrium values. Through an exploration of the wider sub-stellar parameter space, we show that in absolute terms, the increase in dust nucleation due to internal gravity waves is stronger in cooler (T dwarfs) and TiO2-rich sub-stellar atmospheres. The relative increase however is greater in warm
(L dwarf) and TiO2-poor atmospheres due to conditions less suited for efficient nucleation at equilibrium. These variations lead to banded areas in which dust formation is much more pronounced, and lead to banded cloud structures similar to those observed on Earth.

Conclusions. Using the proposed method, potential observations of banded clouds could be used to estimate the atmospheric density of sub-stellar objects.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA159
Number of pages9
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Early online date28 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2020


  • Brown-dwarfs
  • Stars: atmospheres
  • Waves
  • Planets and satellites
  • Atmospheres


Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of internal gravity waves on cloud evolution in sub-stellar atmospheres'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this