Climate models suggest Venus was habitable

Image: Watery Venus
A land-ocean pattern like the one shown in this artist’s conception was used in a climate model to show how storm clouds could have shielded ancient Venus from strong sunlight. (Credit: NASA)

Today Venus is a hellish planet with a crushingly dense atmosphere of carbon dioxide, but billions of years ago, it could have had habitable surface temperatures and a watery ocean.

That’s the conclusion drawn from a fresh round of climate modeling conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. The analysis was published this week in Geophysical Research Letters.

The computer modeling wound the clock back on Venus’ climate, using calculations similar to those employed to wind the clock forward for our own planet’s climate.

“Many of the same tools we use to model climate change on Earth can be adapted to study climates on other planets, both past and present,” lead study author Michael Way, a researcher at the Goddard Institute, said in a NASA news release. “These results show ancient Venus may have been a very different place than it is today.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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