How closely do changes in surface and column water vapor follow Clausius-Clapeyron scaling in climate change simulations?
Author(s)O'Gorman, Paul Ambrose; Muller, Caroline
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The factors governing the rate of change in the amount of atmospheric water vapor are analyzed in simulations of climate change. The global-mean amount of water vapor is estimated to increase at a differential rate of 7.3% K[superscript − 1] with respect to global-mean surface air temperature in the multi-model mean. Larger rates of change result if the fractional change is evaluated over a finite change in temperature (e.g., 8.2% K [superscript − 1] for a 3 K warming), and rates of change of zonal-mean column water vapor range from 6 to 12% K [superscript − 1] depending on latitude. Clausius–Clapeyron scaling is directly evaluated using an invariant distribution of monthly-mean relative humidity, giving a rate of 7.4% K − 1 for global-mean water vapor. There are deviations from Clausius–Clapeyron scaling of zonal-mean column water vapor in the tropics and mid-latitudes, but they largely cancel in the global mean. A purely thermodynamic scaling based on a saturated troposphere gives a higher global rate of 7.9% K [superscript − 1]. Surface specific humidity increases at a rate of 5.7% K [superscript − 1], considerably lower than the rate for global-mean water vapor. Surface specific humidity closely follows Clausius–Clapeyron scaling over ocean. But there are widespread decreases in surface relative humidity over land (by more than 1% K − 1 in many regions), and it is argued that decreases of this magnitude could result from the land/ocean contrast in surface warming.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Environmental Research Letters
P A O'Gorman and C J Muller. "How closely do changes in surface and column water vapor follow Clausius-Clapeyron scaling in climate change simulations?." Environ. Res. Lett. 5.2 (2010): 025207.
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