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It’s the heat and the humidity: The complementary roles of temperature and specific humidity in recent changes to the energy content of the near-surface atmosphere
  • Paul Christopher Stoy,
  • Jaeyeon Roh
Paul Christopher Stoy
University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Jaeyeon Roh
University of Wisconsin - Madison
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Global change is a change in the planetary energy balance. It is usually expressed as a change in near-surface (2 m) air temperature (Ta), but changes to Ta represent only part of the atmospheric energy balance, which includes specific humidity (q) and more. We analyzed MERRA-2 reanalysis data and 15 Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) models over the 1980-2014 period. Some 41%, 37%, and 49% of the near-surface atmosphere showed significant increases in ET, ESH, and E, respectively. The average increase in ET (ESH) was 10.6 J kg−1 year−1 (11.5 J kg−1 year−1) but AMIP models estimated that ET (14.5 J kg−1 year−1) exceeded ESH (13.7 J kg−1 year−1). Global near-surface Ta would have increased at more than twice the observed rate if energy was not partitioned into latent heat. Results demonstrate the critical role that q plays in recent changes to near-surface atmospheric energy.
28 Feb 2022Published in Geophysical Research Letters volume 49 issue 4. 10.1029/2021GL096628