Fr.: échappement de Jeans
A → thermal escape process by which the atmosphere of a planet loses gases to outer space. This form of thermal escape occurs because some molecules, especially low mass ones, are within the higher-velocity end of the → Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution. The possibility for the gases to escape occurs when the thermal energy of air molecules becomes greater than the → gravitational potential energy of the planet: (3/2)kT = (1/2)mv2 > GmM/R where v is upward velocity of a molecule of mass m, M is the mass of the planet, and R is the radius of the planet at which thermal escape occurs. The minimum velocity for which this can work is called the → escape velocity is: ve = (2MG/R)1/2. Hydrogen molecules (H2) and helium, or their ions tend to have velocities high enough so that they are not bound by Earth's gravitational field and are lost to space from the top of the atmosphere. This process is important for the loss of hydrogen, a low-mass species that more easily attains escape speed at a given temperature, because v ~ (2kT/m)1/2. As such, Jeans' escape was likely influential in the atmospheric evolution of all the early terrestrial planets. Jeans' escape currently accounts for a non-negligible fraction of hydrogen escaping from Earth, Mars, and Titan, but it is negligible for Venus because of a cold upper atmosphere combined with relatively high gravity (see, e.g., Catling, D. C. and Kasting, J. F., 2017, Escape of Atmospheres to Space, pp. 129-167. Cambridge University Press).