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Spatial Distributions and Seasonal Variations of Tropospheric Water Vapor Content over the Tibetan Plateau

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  • 1 State Key Laboratory of Severe Weather, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, Beijing, China
  • 2 Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland
  • 3 Department of Atmospheric Science, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China
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Abstract

Spatial distributions and seasonal variations of tropospheric water vapor over the Tibetan Plateau and the surrounding areas are explored by means of water vapor products from the high-resolution Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on board the Aqua satellite and the NASA Water Vapor Project (NVAP). Because NVAP has a serious temporal inhomogeneity issue found in previous studies, the AIRS retrieval product is primarily applied here, though similar seasonal variations can be derived in both datasets. Intense horizontal gradients appear along the edges of the plateau in the lower-tropospheric (500–700 hPa) water vapor and columnar precipitable water, in particular over the regions along the southeastern boundary. Rich horizontal structures are also seen within the plateau, but with a weaker gradient. In the mid- to upper troposphere (300–500 hPa), horizontal gradients are relatively weak. It is shown that there is always a deep layer of high water vapor content over the plateau with a peak around 500 hPa, which can extend from the surface to roughly 300 hPa and even to 100 hPa at some locations. This layer of high water vapor content has consistent influence on precipitating processes in the downstream regions such as the valleys of the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. Estimated vertically integrated water vapor flux and moisture divergence in the two layers (500–700 and 300–500 hPa) further confirm the effect of the Tibetan Plateau on the downstream regions. In particular, the mid- to upper-layer water vapor (300–500 hPa) tends to play an essential role during both the warm and cold seasons, confirmed by the spatial distribution of seasonal-mean precipitation.

Corresponding author address: Donghai Wang, State Key Laboratory of Severe Weather, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, 46 Zhongguancun South Street, Beijing 100081, China. E-mail: wangdh@cams.cma.gov.cn

Abstract

Spatial distributions and seasonal variations of tropospheric water vapor over the Tibetan Plateau and the surrounding areas are explored by means of water vapor products from the high-resolution Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on board the Aqua satellite and the NASA Water Vapor Project (NVAP). Because NVAP has a serious temporal inhomogeneity issue found in previous studies, the AIRS retrieval product is primarily applied here, though similar seasonal variations can be derived in both datasets. Intense horizontal gradients appear along the edges of the plateau in the lower-tropospheric (500–700 hPa) water vapor and columnar precipitable water, in particular over the regions along the southeastern boundary. Rich horizontal structures are also seen within the plateau, but with a weaker gradient. In the mid- to upper troposphere (300–500 hPa), horizontal gradients are relatively weak. It is shown that there is always a deep layer of high water vapor content over the plateau with a peak around 500 hPa, which can extend from the surface to roughly 300 hPa and even to 100 hPa at some locations. This layer of high water vapor content has consistent influence on precipitating processes in the downstream regions such as the valleys of the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. Estimated vertically integrated water vapor flux and moisture divergence in the two layers (500–700 and 300–500 hPa) further confirm the effect of the Tibetan Plateau on the downstream regions. In particular, the mid- to upper-layer water vapor (300–500 hPa) tends to play an essential role during both the warm and cold seasons, confirmed by the spatial distribution of seasonal-mean precipitation.

Corresponding author address: Donghai Wang, State Key Laboratory of Severe Weather, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, 46 Zhongguancun South Street, Beijing 100081, China. E-mail: wangdh@cams.cma.gov.cn
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