Global total precipitable water variations and trends over the period 1958–2021

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

Global responses of the hydrological cycle to climate change have been widely studied, but uncertainties still remain regarding water vapor responses to lower-tropospheric temperature. Here, we investigate the trends in global total precipitable water (TPW) and surface temperature from 1958 to 2021 using ERA5 and JRA-55 reanalysis datasets. We further validate these trends using radiosonde from 1979 to 2019 and Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) and Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS) observations from 2003 to 2021. Our results indicate a global increase in total precipitable water (TPW) of inline-formula∼ 2 % per decade from 1993–2021. 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 (inline-formulaT2 m) warming trend of inline-formula∼ 0.15 inline-formulaK decade−1 over the period 1958–2021. The consistent warming at a rate of inline-formula∼ 0.21 inline-formulaK decade−1 after 1993 corresponds to a strong water vapor response to temperature at a rate of 9.5 inline-formula% K−1 globally, with land areas warming approximately twice as fast as the oceans. The relationship between TPW and inline-formulaT2 m showed a variation of around 6 inline-formula% K−1–8 inline-formula% K−1 in the 15–55° N latitude band, aligning with theoretical estimates from the Clausius–Clapeyron equation.

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Wan, Nenghan / Lin, Xiaomao / Pielke Sr., Roger A. / et al: Global total precipitable water variations and trends over the period 1958–2021. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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