Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Stratospheric Water Vapor is a Global Warming Wild Card

Date:
February 1, 2010
Source:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Summary:
A 10 percent drop in water vapor ten miles above Earth's surface has had a big impact on global warming, say researchers. The findings might help explain why global surface temperatures have not risen as fast in the last ten years as they did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Water vapor and radiative processes.
Credit: Image courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A 10 percent drop in water vapor ten miles above Earth's surface has had a big impact on global warming, say researchers in a study published online January 28 in the journal Science. The findings might help explain why global surface temperatures have not risen as fast in the last ten years as they did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Observations from satellites and balloons show that stratospheric water vapor has had its ups and downs lately, increasing in the 1980s and 1990s, and then dropping after 2000. The authors show that these changes occurred precisely in a narrow altitude region of the stratosphere where they would have the biggest effects on climate.

Water vapor is a highly variable gas and has long been recognized as an important player in the cocktail of greenhouse gases -- carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons, nitrous oxide, and others -- that affect climate.

"Current climate models do a remarkable job on water vapor near the surface. But this is different -- it's a thin wedge of the upper atmosphere that packs a wallop from one decade to the next in a way we didn't expect," says Susan Solomon, NOAA senior scientist and first author of the study.

Since 2000, water vapor in the stratosphere decreased by about 10 percent. The reason for the recent decline in water vapor is unknown. The new study used calculations and models to show that the cooling from this change caused surface temperatures to increase about 25 percent more slowly than they would have otherwise, due only to the increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

An increase in stratospheric water vapor in the 1990s likely had the opposite effect of increasing the rate of warming observed during that time by about 30 percent, the authors found.

The stratosphere is a region of the atmosphere from about eight to 30 miles above the Earth's surface. Water vapor enters the stratosphere mainly as air rises in the tropics. Previous studies suggested that stratospheric water vapor might contribute significantly to climate change. The new study is the first to relate water vapor in the stratosphere to the specific variations in warming of the past few decades.

Authors of the study are Susan Solomon, Karen Rosenlof, Robert Portmann, and John Daniel, all of the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo.; Sean Davis and Todd Sanford, NOAA/ESRL and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado; and Gian-Kasper Plattner, University of Bern, Switzerland.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Stratospheric Water Vapor is a Global Warming Wild Card." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100131145840.htm>.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2010, February 1). Stratospheric Water Vapor is a Global Warming Wild Card. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100131145840.htm
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Stratospheric Water Vapor is a Global Warming Wild Card." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100131145840.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — The United Nations says water is a human right, but should it be free? Detroit has cut off water to residents who can't pay, and the U.N. isn't happy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) — Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — Suni, a rare northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, died Friday. This, as many media have pointed out, leaves people fearing extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins