Atmospheres regulate the planetary heat loss and therefore influence planetary thermal evolution. Uncertainty in a giant planet’s thermal state contributes to the uncertainty in the inferred abundance of heavy elements it contains. Within an analytic atmosphere model, we here investigate the influence that different cloud opacities and cloud depths can have on the metallicity of irradiated extrasolar gas giants, which is inferred from interior models. In this work, the link between inferred metallicity and assumed cloud properties is the thermal profile of atmosphere and interior. Therefore, we perform coupled atmosphere, interior, and evolution calculations. The atmosphere model includes clouds in a much simplified manner; it includes long-wave absorption but neglects shortwave scattering. Within that model, we show that optically thick, high clouds have negligible influence, whereas deep-seated, optically very thick clouds can lead to warmer deep tropospheres and therefore higher bulk heavy element mass estimates. For the young hot Jupiter WASP-10b, we find a possible enhancement in inferred metallicity of up to 10% due to possible silicate clouds at ∼0.3 bar. For WASP-39b, whose observationally derived metallicity is higher than predicted by cloudless models, we find an enhancement by at most 50%. However, further work on cloud properties and their self-consistent coupling to the atmospheric structure is needed in order to reduce uncertainties in the choice of model parameter values, in particular of cloud opacities.
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