Surface Water Vapor Pressure and Temperature Trends in North America during 1948–2010

V. Isaac Physics Department, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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W. A. van Wijngaarden Physics Department, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Abstract

Over one-quarter billion hourly values of temperature and relative humidity observed at 309 stations located across North America during 1948–2010 were studied. The water vapor pressure was determined and seasonal averages were computed. Data were first examined for inhomogeneities using a statistical test to determine whether the data were fit better to a straight line or a straight line plus an abrupt step, which may arise from changes in instruments and/or procedure. Trends were then found for data not having discontinuities. Statistically significant warming trends affecting the Midwestern United States, Canadian prairies, and the western Arctic are evident in winter and to a lesser extent in spring while statistically significant increases in water vapor pressure occur primarily in summer for some stations in the eastern half of the United States. The temperature (water vapor pressure) trends averaged over all stations were 0.30 (0.07), 0.24 (0.06), 0.13 (0.11), 0.11 (0.07) °C decade−1 (hPa decade−1) in the winter, spring, summer, and autumn seasons, respectively. The averages of these seasonal trends are 0.20°C decade−1 and 0.07 hPa decade−1, which correspond to a specific humidity increase of 0.04 g kg−1 decade−1 and a relative humidity reduction of 0.5% decade−1.

Corresponding author address: W. A. van Wijngaarden, Physics Dept., Petrie Building, York University, 4700 Keele St., Toronto ON M3J 1P3, Canada. E-mail: wlaser@yorku.ca

Abstract

Over one-quarter billion hourly values of temperature and relative humidity observed at 309 stations located across North America during 1948–2010 were studied. The water vapor pressure was determined and seasonal averages were computed. Data were first examined for inhomogeneities using a statistical test to determine whether the data were fit better to a straight line or a straight line plus an abrupt step, which may arise from changes in instruments and/or procedure. Trends were then found for data not having discontinuities. Statistically significant warming trends affecting the Midwestern United States, Canadian prairies, and the western Arctic are evident in winter and to a lesser extent in spring while statistically significant increases in water vapor pressure occur primarily in summer for some stations in the eastern half of the United States. The temperature (water vapor pressure) trends averaged over all stations were 0.30 (0.07), 0.24 (0.06), 0.13 (0.11), 0.11 (0.07) °C decade−1 (hPa decade−1) in the winter, spring, summer, and autumn seasons, respectively. The averages of these seasonal trends are 0.20°C decade−1 and 0.07 hPa decade−1, which correspond to a specific humidity increase of 0.04 g kg−1 decade−1 and a relative humidity reduction of 0.5% decade−1.

Corresponding author address: W. A. van Wijngaarden, Physics Dept., Petrie Building, York University, 4700 Keele St., Toronto ON M3J 1P3, Canada. E-mail: wlaser@yorku.ca
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