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Antarctic Low-Tropospheric Humidity Inversions: 10-Yr Climatology

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  • 1 Finnish Meteorological Institute, and University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • | 2 Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
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Abstract

Humidity inversions are nearly permanently present in the coastal Antarctic atmosphere. This is shown based on an investigation of statistical characteristics of humidity inversions at 11 Antarctic coastal stations using radiosonde data from the Integrated Global Radiosonde Archive (IGRA) from 2000 to 2009. The humidity inversion occurrence was highest in winter and spring, and high atmospheric pressure and cloud-free conditions generally increased the occurrence. A typical humidity inversion was less than 200 m deep and 0.2 g kg−1 strong, and a typical humidity profile contained several separate inversion layers. The inversion base height had notable seasonal variations, but generally the humidity inversions were located at higher altitudes than temperature inversions. Roughly half of the humidity inversions were associated with temperature inversions, especially near the surface, and humidity and temperature inversion strengths as well as depths correlated at several stations. On the other hand, approximately 60% of the humidity inversions were accompanied by horizontal advection of water vapor increasing with height, which is also a probable factor supporting humidity inversions. The spatial variability of humidity inversions was linked to the topography and the water vapor content of the air. Compared to previous results for the Arctic, the most striking differences in humidity inversions in the Antarctic were a much higher frequency of occurrence in summer, at least under clear skies, and a reverse seasonal cycle of the inversion height. The results can be used as a baseline for validation of weather prediction and climate models and for studies addressing changes in atmospheric moisture budget in the Antarctic.

Corresponding author address: Tiina Nygård, Finnish Meteorological Institute, P.O. Box 503, FI-00101 Helsinki, Finland. E-mail: tiina.nygard@fmi.fi

Abstract

Humidity inversions are nearly permanently present in the coastal Antarctic atmosphere. This is shown based on an investigation of statistical characteristics of humidity inversions at 11 Antarctic coastal stations using radiosonde data from the Integrated Global Radiosonde Archive (IGRA) from 2000 to 2009. The humidity inversion occurrence was highest in winter and spring, and high atmospheric pressure and cloud-free conditions generally increased the occurrence. A typical humidity inversion was less than 200 m deep and 0.2 g kg−1 strong, and a typical humidity profile contained several separate inversion layers. The inversion base height had notable seasonal variations, but generally the humidity inversions were located at higher altitudes than temperature inversions. Roughly half of the humidity inversions were associated with temperature inversions, especially near the surface, and humidity and temperature inversion strengths as well as depths correlated at several stations. On the other hand, approximately 60% of the humidity inversions were accompanied by horizontal advection of water vapor increasing with height, which is also a probable factor supporting humidity inversions. The spatial variability of humidity inversions was linked to the topography and the water vapor content of the air. Compared to previous results for the Arctic, the most striking differences in humidity inversions in the Antarctic were a much higher frequency of occurrence in summer, at least under clear skies, and a reverse seasonal cycle of the inversion height. The results can be used as a baseline for validation of weather prediction and climate models and for studies addressing changes in atmospheric moisture budget in the Antarctic.

Corresponding author address: Tiina Nygård, Finnish Meteorological Institute, P.O. Box 503, FI-00101 Helsinki, Finland. E-mail: tiina.nygard@fmi.fi
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