SCYON Abstract

Received on August 24 2006

The Global Evolution of Giant Molecular Clouds. I:
Model Formulation and Quasi-Equilibrium Behavior

AuthorsMark R. Krumholz(1), Christopher D. Matzner(2), and Christopher F. McKee(3)
(1)Princeton University
(2)University of Toronto
(3)University of California, Berkeley
Accepted byAstrophysical Journal


We present semi-analytic dynamical models for giant molecular clouds evolving under the influence of HII regions launched by newborn star clusters. In contrast to previous work, we neither assume that clouds are in virial or energetic equilibrium, nor do we ignore the effects of star formation feedback. The clouds, which we treat as spherical, can expand and contract homologously. Photoionization drives mass ejection; the recoil of cloud material both stirs turbulent motions and leads to an effective confining pressure. The balance between these effects and the decay of turbulent motions through isothermal shocks determines clouds' dynamical and energetic evolution. We find that for realistic values of the rates of turbulent dissipation, photoevaporation, and energy injection by HII regions, the massive clouds where most molecular gas in the Galaxy resides live for a few crossing times, in good agreement with recent observational estimates that large clouds in local group galaxies survive roughly 20-30 Myr. During this time clouds remain close to equilibrium, with virial parameters of 1-3 and column densities near 1022 H atoms cm-2, also in agreement with observed cloud properties. Over their lives they convert 5-10% of their mass into stars, after which point most clouds are destroyed when a large HII region unbinds them. In contrast, small clouds like those found in the solar neighborhood only survive ~1 crossing time before being destroyed.