The need for accurate long-term measurements of water vapor in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere with global coverage (20 page pdf, Rolf Muller, Anne Kunz, Dale F. Hurst, Christian Rolf, Martina Kramer, and
Martin Riese1, Earth’s Future, Dec. 30, 20015)
Today we review a journal article calling for the establishment of a global network of upper air balloons to measure water vapour in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. Although water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas it unlike CO2 has a lifetime of only a week or so because of the evaporation/condensation hydrological cycle, compared to a century for CO2 to accumulate in the atmosphere. Despite this water vapour acts as a positive feedback when the air has a higher humidity leading to more convective precipitation as a result of the warming of the earth’s surface.
The global measurement of water vapour on a routine and operational basis lags the networks established earlier for CO2 and Ozone. Ideally, a dedicated upper air balloon network is recommended, augmented by satellite sensors with 2 km resolution to estimate Atmospheric water vapour. Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Reference Upper-Air Network (GRUAN) is such a network made up of 30-40 sites. Following through on this ask will be important when estimating future climate impacts resulting from warming due to carbon emissions.
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