Climate Change Research Spotlight

The Forgotten Water Vapor at High Altitudes

Scientists find that estimations of high-altitude atmospheric water, critical for the greenhouse effect, are not as accurate as previously thought.

Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

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Water vapor is one of the most important greenhouse gases. As it drifts through the atmosphere, the vapor absorbs heat. The warm, moist air rises, leaving the planet’s surface and emitting that heat back out into the upper atmosphere. To determine how well we understand the behavior of water vapor at high altitudes, Jiang et al. compared three different reanalyses—long-term records of changing weather patterns over time—to satellite observations.

The Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) is an instrument aboard NASA’s Aura satellite that takes measurements of the atmosphere’s composition, humidity, and temperature at altitudes of roughly 8 kilometers and above. The researchers used such measurements to examine the accuracy of water vapor calculations from two versions of NASA Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA and MERRA2) reanalysis and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Interim Reanalyses—all of which provide climate modelers with estimations of how much water is in the atmosphere. The authors specifically investigated the amounts of water in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere and how much water was transferred between the two layers. This was the first study of NASA MERRA2 reanalysis since its release in October 2015.

They found that the reanalyses were fairly inconsistent with the MLS observations. The reanalyses overestimated the average amount of water in the upper troposphere, overshooting the MLS observations by about 150%. The team also found that the MLS measured water vapor traveling between the two layers slower than the reanalyses predicted. Vertical transport within the lower stratosphere in the tropics was 168% faster than the MLS measures according to the ECMWF, whereas MERRA numbers were only 10% faster than the MLS ones. The rate of horizontal water movement was also skewed: MERRA had water moving 106% faster in the Northern Hemisphere and up to 45% slower in the Southern Hemisphere, and ECMWF was 16% faster in both hemispheres.

These findings highlight our incomplete understanding of water vapor’s distribution and variability in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. The researchers call for further study on water vapor behavior at these high altitudes, as the large variance between the reanalyses could hinder the production of accurate climate models. (Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, doi:10.1002/2015JD023752, 2015)

—Cody Sullivan, Freelance Writer

Citation: Sullivan, C. (2016), The forgotten water vapor at high altitudes, Eos, 97, doi:10.1029/2016EO045075. Published on 5 February 2016.

© 2016. The authors. CC BY-NC 3.0
  • Valuable information is provided in this article on the measurements of water vapor within 8 km height above the Earth. However the inferences that water vapor absorbing heat and raising temperature of atmospheric air needs a review on the basis of latest research published as two research papers in 2015 on planetary temperatures. For the first time, it became possible to explain with unprecedented detail how the atmospheric temperatures at different heights are controlled by solar emissions produced by 235-Uranium fission. In Exosphere, near infrared radiation originating from Sun controls over 10,000 km height. In the Thermosphere, low intense near infrared radiation controls at 500 km, visible light at 500-100 km, UV at 110 to 100 km and EUV at 100 to 90 km. In Mesopause, Bharat radiation (12.87 to 31 nm) controls at 90 to 84 km. In Mesosphere, near infrared radiation caused by solar beta, gamma and X-rays controls at 84 to 54 km. In Stratopause, visible light caused by solar beta, gamma and X-rays controls at 54 to 48 km. In Stratosphere, UV and EUV caused by solar beta, gamma and X-rays control at 48 to 33 km and 33 to 20 km heights respectively. In Tropopause, Bharat Radiation caused by solar beta, gamma and X-rays controls at 20 to 10 km. Notably, in Troposphere the near infrared radiation and visible light caused locally by solar beta, gamma and X-rays control the atmospheric temperature within 10 km height above Earth. Interestingly, the sunlight and heat that Earth receives is mainly from within 10 km height. In nutshell, the atmospheric temperatures are mainly caused by above mentioned solar emissions though water vapor can have some influence.

    M.A.Padmanabha Rao, All the Sunlight that Earth Receives is not directly from Sun, International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology, Vol. 4, Issue 11, November 2015, 10.15680/IJIRSET.2015.0411050 http://www.ijirset.com/upload/2015/november/50_6_All_the.pdf

    M.A.Padmanabha Rao, Discovery of Padmanabha Rao Effect controlling planetary temperatures, International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology, Vol. 4, Issue 12, December 2015, 10.15680/IJIRSET.2015.0412129
    http://www.ijirset.com/upload/2015/december/129_33_Discovery.pdf

    • Alberto Enriquez

      Solar radiation is generated chiefly by fusion of hydrogen into helium, not by fission.

      • Alberto Enriquez, ARE YOU REALLY SERIOUS ON THE SUBJECT AND READY TO DEAL POLITELY? What you said in the above comment 8 hrs ago has been the traditional wisdom. Fusion causing Sunlight was a theoretical assumption and was never proved by any experimental evidence. I am aware of generating very high temperatures by fusion experiments. However, the high temperature was maintained only for a short period. Importantly, fusion cannot generate EUV and UV emissions that we find among solar emissions.

        Since long it is believed that “fusion reaction to make happen is combining deuterium (or “heavy hydrogen) with tritium (or “heavy-heavy hydrogen”) to make helium”. Ref: fusioned.gat.com/what_is_fusion.html However, you will be surprised to know that there is neither hydrogen line nor tritium line in the solar spectrum measured by Woods et al from University of Colorado (Refer fig.3 in the following paper (1). Then how is possible to get He-II line in solar spectrum? It was found to be due to 133-In, a very short lived 235-Uranium fission product (Refer Table in the following paper (2).

        1. M.A.Padmanabha Rao, Discovery of Sun’s Bharat Radiation emission causing Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) and UV dominant optical radiation, IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR-JAP), Volume 3, Issue 2 (Mar. – Apr. 2013), PP 56¬60, DOI: 10.9790/4861¬0325660 http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr¬jap/papers/Vol3¬issue2/H0325660.pdf

        2. M.A.Padmanabha Rao, Discovery of Self ¬Sustained 235¬U Fission Causing Sunlight by Padmanabha Rao Effect, IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR¬JAP), Volume 4, Issue 2 (Jul. – Aug. 2013), PP 06¬24, DOI: 10.9790/4861¬0420624 http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jap/papers/Vol4¬issue2/B0420624.pdf

        Further Ref: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ma_Padmanabha_Rao

        • Alberto Enriquez

          I assume that politely includes lower-case? Never mind. I don’t necessarily respond in the nanoseconds of the internet, but that doesn’t mean that I am angry or dismissive. You’ve made a novel and even audacious claim, which would upend longstanding theory, but as history shows sometimes such claims are right. I will read your paper. Though clearly, I’m not among the company of researchers whom you would hope to convince. Perhaps the only useful contribution I could make is to raise a question. You have observed what you say is evidence of fission, which you have defined as “against the theory of fusion.”
          My question is simple. Why “against”?

          Is there not room in your theory for the possibility that fission processes may occur in addition to fusion rather than to its exclusion? As I understand it, the theory of fusion accounts for the immense longevity of the stars, a lifespan of 10 billion for our own sun. Have you modeled how fission products would sustain such a long span? Or how the initial composition required to sustain fission would affect stellar evolution?

          • Your question: Is there not room in your theory for the poal levels.ssibility that fission processes may occur in addition to fusion rather than to its exclusion?
            My answer: Fusion is not involved in Sunlight phenomenon. I have not explained by any theory. From X-ray fluorescent (XRF) source{ Rb XRF source I was able to detect for the first time UV dominant optical emission. I have realized the energetic Rb X-rays in keV, being ionizing radiation can knock out valence electron, but cannot excite valence electron to optical levels to cause the newly detected optical emission. Therefore, it was presumed that Rb X-rays might have generated some energy higher than that UV within the excited atoms It was termed as Bharat radiation. I have simply predicted but I could not detect Bharat radiation. However, in 2013 I have found three mountain like wavelength regions in solar spectrum. The first one was identified as solar X-rays, the middle one as Bharat radiation, and the third as Extreme UV. (EUV). Bharat Radiation was also predicted from radioisotopes. So the discovery of Bharat radiation in solar spectrum hinted presence of radioisotopes on Sun’s core surface. That happens only when 235-uranium fission takes place. Based on fission, I have succeeded in identifying 153 solar line, when not possible to identify so many previously.

            Q. Have you modeled how fission products would sustain such a long span?
            Answer: On Sun, fission takes place at more than one site. That keeps continuously the emissions: beta, gamma,X-rays, Bhara radiation, EUV,UV, visible light, near infrared radiations Long lived radioisotopes emit these radiations for long time from each of the fission sites. That is how Sunlight is continuously caused.

      • Alberto Enriquez, The traditional wisdom on fusion of hydrogen causing Sunlight has been challenged in 2013. Discovery on existence of Bharat Radiation wavelengths (12.87 to 31 nm) in solar spectrum measured by Woods et al from University of Colorado changed the current understanding on Sunlight phenomenon from fusion to 235-Uranium fission.
        Ref: M.A.Padmanabha Rao, Discovery of Sun’s Bharat Radiation emission causing Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) and UV dominant optical radiation, IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR¬JAP), Volume 3, Issue 2 (Mar. – Apr. 2013), PP 56¬60, DOI: 10.9790/4861¬0325660 http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr¬jap/papers/Vol3¬issue2/H0325660.pdf

        There are serious limitations in the view of fusion causing Sunlight. It is believed that fusion of two hydrogen atoms makes a deuterium atom. And fusion of a deuterium atom and a hydrogen atom makes a tritium atom. Then fusion of two tritium atoms makes a helium (4-He) atom. However, a close examination of solar lines in solar spectrum does not show any evidence on presence of hydrogen, deuterium, tritium or 4-He. Solar spectrum in Fig.3 in the above paper shows two solar lines are marked as 2-He but not 4-He. Therefore, do yo agree with me that there is no experimental evidence in solar spectrum on fusion causing any solar lines?

        In 2013, a very short lived 133-In (235-Uranium fission product) was reported to be causing most intense solar line ,at 30.378 nm, but not by He-II. Ref: M.A.Padmanabha Rao, Discovery of Self ¬Sustained 235¬U Fission Causing Sunlight by Padmanabha Rao Effect, IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR¬JAP), Volume 4, Issue 2 (Jul. – Aug. 2013), PP 06¬24, DOI: 10.9790/4861¬0420624 http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jap/papers/Vol4¬issue2/B0420624.pdf