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Johannes Schmetz
W. Paul Menzel
Christopher Velden
Xiangqian Wu
Leo van de Berg
Steve Nieman
Christopher Hayden
Kenneth Holmlund
, and
Carlos Geijo

This paper describes the results from a collaborative study between the European Space Operations Center, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies investigating the relationship between satellite-derived monthly mean fields of wind and humidity in the upper troposphere for March 1994. Three geostationary meteorological satellites GOES-7, Meteosat-3, and Meteosat-5 are used to cover an area from roughly 160°W to 50°E. The wind fields are derived from tracking features in successive images of upper-tropospheric water vapor (WV) as depicted in the 6.5-μ absorption band. The upper-tropospheric relative humidity (UTH) is inferred from measured water vapor radiances with a physical retrieval scheme based on radiative forward calculations.

Quantitative information on large-scale circulation patterns in the upper troposphere is possible with the dense spatial coverage of the WV wind vectors. The monthly mean wind field is used to estimate the large-scale divergence; values range between about −5 × 10−6 and 5 × 10−6 sec−1 when averaged over a scale length of about 1000–2000 km. The spatial patterns of the UTH field and the divergence of the wind field closely resemble one another, suggesting that UTH patterns are principally determined by the large-scale circulation.

Since the upper-tropospheric humidity absorbs upwelling radiation from lower-tropospheric levels and therefore contributes significantly to the atmospheric greenhouse effect, this work implies that studies on the climate relevance of water vapor should include threedimensional modeling of the atmospheric dynamics. The fields of UTH and WV winds are useful parameters for a climate-monitoring system based on satellite data. The results from this 1-month analysis suggest the desirability of further GOES and Meteosat studies to characterize the changes in the upper-tropospheric moisture sources and sinks over the past decade.

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