Distribution of Tropical Tropospheric Water Vapor

De-Zheng Sun Center for Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Search for other papers by De-Zheng Sun in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
and
Richard S. Lindzen Center for Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Search for other papers by Richard S. Lindzen in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Full access

Abstract

Utilizing a conceptual model for tropical convection and observational data for water vapor, the maintenance of the vertical distribution of the tropical tropospheric water vapor is discussed. While deep convection induces large-scale subsidence that constrains the turbulent downgradient mixing to within the convective boundary layer and effectively dries the troposphere through downward advection, it also pumps hydrometeors into the upper troposphere, whose subsequent evaporation appears to be the major source of moisture for the large-scale subsiding motion. The development of upper-level clouds and precipitation from these clouds may also act to dry the outflow, thus explaining the low relative humidity near the tropopause. A one-dimensional model is developed to simulate the mean vertical structure of water vapor in the tropical troposphere. It is also shown that the horizontal variation of water vapor in the tropical troposphere above the trade-wind boundary layer can be explained by the variation of a moisture source that is proportional to the amount of upper-level clouds. Implications for the nature of water vapor feedback in global warming are discussed.

Abstract

Utilizing a conceptual model for tropical convection and observational data for water vapor, the maintenance of the vertical distribution of the tropical tropospheric water vapor is discussed. While deep convection induces large-scale subsidence that constrains the turbulent downgradient mixing to within the convective boundary layer and effectively dries the troposphere through downward advection, it also pumps hydrometeors into the upper troposphere, whose subsequent evaporation appears to be the major source of moisture for the large-scale subsiding motion. The development of upper-level clouds and precipitation from these clouds may also act to dry the outflow, thus explaining the low relative humidity near the tropopause. A one-dimensional model is developed to simulate the mean vertical structure of water vapor in the tropical troposphere. It is also shown that the horizontal variation of water vapor in the tropical troposphere above the trade-wind boundary layer can be explained by the variation of a moisture source that is proportional to the amount of upper-level clouds. Implications for the nature of water vapor feedback in global warming are discussed.

Save