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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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This research seeks out to answer a fundamental question about the functioning of the water cycle in the atmosphere: how much time does a water particle spend in the atmosphere? Based on state-of-the-art data, we derive a global average residence time of water in the atmosphere of 8–10 days. We further show in this paper how the residence time of water varies in time and space. This serves to illustrate why it is so difficult to make weather predictions on timescales longer than a week.
Articles | Volume 21, issue 2
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 779–790, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-21-779-2017
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 779–790, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-21-779-2017

Research article 08 Feb 2017

Research article | 08 Feb 2017

The residence time of water in the atmosphere revisited

Ruud J. van der Ent and Obbe A. Tuinenburg

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Cited articles

Bodnar, R. J., Azbej, T., Becker, S. P., Cannatelli, C., Fall, A., and Severs, M. J.: Whole Earth geohydrologic cycle, from the clouds to the core: The distribution of water in the dynamic Earth system, in: Web Geol. Sci. Adv. Impacts, Interact. Geol. Soc. Am. Spec. Pap. 500, edited by: Bickford, M. E., The Geological Society of America, Boulder, Colorado, USA, 431–461, https://doi.org/10.1130/2013.2500(13), 2013.
Bosilovich, M. G. and Schubert, S. D.: Water vapor tracers as diagnostics of the regional hydrologic cycle, J. Hydrometeorol., 3, 149–165, https://doi.org/10.1175/1525-7541(2002)003<0149:WVTADO>2.0.CO;2, 2002.
Bosilovich, M. G., Sud, Y., Schubert, S. D., and Walker, G. K.: GEWEX CSE sources of precipitation using GCM water vapor tracers, GEWEX News, 12, 6–7, 2002.
Chow, V. T., Maidment, D. R., and Mays, L. W.: Applied Hydrology, McGraw-Hill, Singapore, 1988.
Publications Copernicus
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Short summary
This research seeks out to answer a fundamental question about the functioning of the water cycle in the atmosphere: how much time does a water particle spend in the atmosphere? Based on state-of-the-art data, we derive a global average residence time of water in the atmosphere of 8–10 days. We further show in this paper how the residence time of water varies in time and space. This serves to illustrate why it is so difficult to make weather predictions on timescales longer than a week.
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