Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2023-301
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2023-301
10 Jan 2024
 | 10 Jan 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Global total precipitable water variations and trends during 1958–2021

Nenghan Wan, Xiaomao Lin, Roger A. Pielke Sr., Xubin Zeng, and Amanda M. Nelson

Abstract. Global responses of the hydrological cycle to climate change have been widely studied but uncertainties of temperature responses to lower-tropospheric water vapor still remain. Here, we investigate the trends in global total precipitable water (TPW) and surface temperature from 1958 to 2021 using improved ERA5 and JRA-55 reanalysis datasets and further validate these trends by using radiosonde, Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), and Microwave Satellite (SSMI(S)) observations. Our results indicate a global increase in total precipitable water (TPW) of 0.66 % per decade according to ERA5 data and 0.88 % per decade in JRA-55 data. These variations in TPW reflect the interactions of global warming feedback mechanisms across different spatial scales. Our results also revealed a significant near-surface temperature (T2m) warming trend at the rate of 0.14 K dec-1 and a strong water vapor response to temperature at a rate of 4–6 % K-1 globally, with land areas warming approximately twice as fast as the oceans. The relationship between TPW and T2m or surface skin temperature (Ts) showed a variation around 6–8 % K-1 in the 15–60° N latitude band, aligning with theoretical estimates from the Clausius–Clapeyron equation.

Nenghan Wan, Xiaomao Lin, Roger A. Pielke Sr., Xubin Zeng, and Amanda M. Nelson

Status: open (until 06 Mar 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on hess-2023-301', Ben Santer, 13 Jan 2024 reply
    • AC1: 'Reply on CC1', Xiaomao Lin, 14 Jan 2024 reply
      • CC2: 'Reply on AC1', Ben Santer, 14 Jan 2024 reply
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2023-301', Richard Allan, 19 Jan 2024 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2023-301', Kevin Trenberth, 24 Jan 2024 reply
Nenghan Wan, Xiaomao Lin, Roger A. Pielke Sr., Xubin Zeng, and Amanda M. Nelson
Nenghan Wan, Xiaomao Lin, Roger A. Pielke Sr., Xubin Zeng, and Amanda M. Nelson

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Short summary
Global warming occurs at a rate of 0.15 K dec-1, resulting in about 5 % K-1 of water vapor response to temperature from 1958 to 2021. Terrestrial areas experienced larger warming than the ocean, with a ratio of 2:1. The total precipitable water change in response to surface temperature changes showed larger variations of 5–11 % K-1 over oceans than over land. Further studies are needed to identify the mechanisms leading to different water vapor responses.