Approximately 30%-40% of all baryons in the present-day universe reside in a warm-hot intergalactic medium (WHIM), with temperatures in the range 105 < T < 107 K. This is a generic prediction from six hydrodynamic simulations of currently favored structure formation models having a wide variety of numerical methods, input physics, volumes, and spatial resolutions. Most of these warm-hot baryons reside in diffuse large-scale structures with a median overdensity around 10-30, not in virialized objects such as galaxy groups or galactic halos. The evolution of the WHIM is primarily driven by shock heating from gravitational perturbations breaking on mildly nonlinear, nonequilibrium structures such as filaments. Supernova feedback energy and radiative cooling play lesser roles in its evolution. WHIM gas may be consistent with observations of the 0.25 keV X-ray background without being significantly heated by nongravitational processes because the emitting gas is very diffuse. Our results confirm and extend previous work by Cen & Ostriker and Davé et al.
- Cosmology: observations
- Intergalactic medium
- Large-scale structure of universe
- Methods: numerical