A Comparative Study of Atmospheric Chemistry with VULCAN

Shang Min Tsai, Matej Malik, Daniel Kitzmann, James R. Lyons, Alexander Fateev, Elspeth Lee, Kevin Heng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


We present an update of the open-source photochemical kinetics code VULCAN to include C–H–N–O–S networks and photochemistry. The additional new features are advection transport, condensation, various boundary conditions, and temperature-dependent UV cross sections. First, we validate our photochemical model for hot Jupiter atmospheres by performing an intercomparison of HD 189733b models between Moses et al., Venot et al., and VULCAN, to diagnose possible sources of discrepancy. Second, we set up a model of Jupiter extending from the deep troposphere to upper stratosphere to verify the kinetics for low temperature. Our model reproduces hydrocarbons consistent with observations, and the condensation scheme successfully predicts the locations of water and ammonia ice clouds. We show that vertical advection can regulate the local ammonia distribution in the deep atmosphere. Third, we validate the model for oxidizing atmospheres by simulating Earth and find agreement with observations. Last, VULCAN is applied to four representative cases of extrasolar giant planets: WASP-33b, HD 189733b, GJ 436b, and 51 Eridani b. We look into the effects of the C/O ratio and chemistry of titanium/vanadium species for WASP-33b, we revisit HD 189733b for the effects of sulfur and carbon condensation, the effects of internal heating and vertical mixing (K zz) are explored for GJ 436b, and we test updated planetary properties for 51 Eridani b with S8 condensates. We find that sulfur can couple to carbon or nitrogen and impact other species, such as hydrogen, methane, and ammonia. The observable features of the synthetic spectra and trends in the photochemical haze precursors are discussed for each case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number264
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 20 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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