Advances in Atmospheric Sciences

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 752–766 | Cite as

Water Vapor Variability in the Tropical Western Pacific from 20-year Radiosonde Data

  • Junhong WangEmail author
  • Harold L. Cole
  • David J. Carlson


The 20-year (1976–1995) daily radiosonde data at 17 stations in the tropical western Pacific was analyzed. The analysis shows that the atmosphere is more humid in a warmer climate on seasonal, inter-annual and long-term (20-year) time scales, implying a positive water vapor feedback. The vertical structure of the long-term trends in relative humidity (RH) is distinct from that on short-term (seasonal and inter-annual) time scales, suggesting that observed water vapor changes on short time scales could not be considered as a surrogate of long-term climate change. The increasing trend of RH (3%–5% / decade) in the upper troposphere is stronger than that in the lower troposphere (1%2%–2% / decade). Such vertical structure would amplify positive water vapor feedback in comparison to the common assumption of constant RH changes vertically. The empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis of vertical structure of RH variations shows distinct features of the vertical structure of the first three EOFs. The first three EOFs are optimal for representation of water vapor profiles and provide some hints on physical mechanisms responsible for observed humidity variability.

Vaisala radiosondes were used at nine stations, and VIZ radiosondes used at other eight stations. The Vaisala data are corrected for temperature-dependence error using the correction scheme developed by NCAR I A TD and Vaisala. The comparison of Vaisala and VIZ data shows that the VIZ-measured RHs after October 1993 have a moist bias of ~ 10% at RHs < 20%. During 1976–1995, several changes including both instruments and reporting practice have been made at Vaisala stations and introduce errors to long-term RH variations.

Key words

Water vapor Radiosonde 


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Copyright information

© Advances in Atmospheric Sciences 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Junhong Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Harold L. Cole
    • 1
  • David J. Carlson
    • 1
  1. 1.National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA

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