Effects of moisture on static stability & convection

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1 Effects of moisture on static stability & convection Dry vs. "moist" air parcel: Lifting of an air parcel leads to adiabatic cooling. If the temperature of the parcel falls below the critical temperature for condensation, phase change may occur Latent heat release The "wet" air parcel gains extra buoyancy to ascend to a higher level. Thus, moisture enhances convection Gains extra buoyancy to go higher Condensational heating Adiabatic cooling Adiabatic cooling Water vapor T dry = T moist T dry T moist Dry Moist

2 Water vapor Dynamics: The effect of water vapor is minor before condensation occurs. What makes water vapor important is the effect of condensational heating in moist convection. Radiation: Water vapor is also a greenhouse gas that effectively absorb IR radiation emitted by Earth's surface. Water is extremely important for human life. All of the water over land comes from the ocean. The transport of water vapor from sea to land, and the ensuing processes of moist convection and precipitation, are of first order importance in weather/climate prediction. To predict those processes, we need extra equations for water vapor and for phase change between water vapor and liquid water or ice. For example, the equation for the transport of water vapor by atmospheric motion would look like q t v q = Source Sink, where v and q are velocity and specific humidity. Condensation would count as a sink of water vapor (but a source of liquid water). We will revisit this point later.

3 Useful parameters for a moist atmosphere Density Consider an air parcel that contains water vapor m v : Mass of water vapor ρ v = m v /V (V is the volume of the parcel) m d : Mass of dry air ρ d = m d /V Total mass m tot = m v + m d Total density ρ = ρ v + ρ d m v : Mass of water vapor m d : Mass of dry air

4 Pressure e : Partial pressure for water vapor p d : Partial pressure for dry air Total pressure p = e + p d (Dalton's law) Typically, e << p. At surface, e is ~ 30 mb at most, while p ~ 1000 mb. Temperature is the same for water vapor, dry air, and the parcel as a whole Ideal gas law is satisfied by the dry air and water vapor separately, with different gas constants p d = ρ d R d T e = ρ v R v T

5 Gas constant For many applications, we only need to know the ratio of R d to R v. (For the record, their values are R d 287 and R v 461 J K -1 kg -1.) From basic chemistry, R d /R v = M v /M d, where M d and M v are the molecular weight (not to be confused with the mass, m d or m v ) of dry air and water vapor. Since dry air consists of ~ 80% nitrogen and ~ 20% oxygen, M d 0.8 (N 2 ) (O 2 ) = 0.8 (28) (32) = 28.8 g/mol, while M v = 1.0 (H 2 O) = 18 g/mol. So we have ε R d /R v = 18/ We will use the constant ε to simplify later discussions.

6 Specific humidity q m v /m tot = ρ v /ρ, is the ratio of the mass of water vapor to the total mass (water vapor + dry air) of the air parcel. Note that q is dimensionless. The value of q is on the order of 0.01 (i.e., 10 g of water vapor for 1 kg of moist air.) Mixing ratio (just for the record; we will not use it) r m v /m d = ρ v /ρ d.

7 Relation between q and e q = v v d = 1 1 d v. Eq. (1) Combining the ideal gas law for dry air and water vapor, we have p d e = d v R d R v = d v Eq. (2) Combining (1) and (2), and p = e + p d, we have q = p e 1 Eq. (3) Since e << p, one may take it as a good approximation that q e p. Eq. (4)

8 Key variables for a moist atmosphere The state of a dry atmosphere can be described by the variable set, (p, T), where p is pressure, T is temperature. Both are functions of space and time, (x,y,z,t). For a moist atmosphere, we need (p, T, q) or (p, T, e). Note that once (p, T, e) is known, q can be readily obtained from Eq. (3) or (4).

9 Saturation vapor pressure The saturation vapor pressure, e s, is the critical value of the partial pressure of water vapor such that condensation may occur when e > e s. In other words, e s indicates the maximum amount of water vapor (in terms of its pressure) that the atmosphere can accommodate under given pressure and temperature. As it turns out, e s depends almost exclusively on temperature, as described by Clausius-Clapeyron equation, d e s d T = L T 2 1, where L is latent heat constant (for condensation) and α 1 and α 2 are the specific volume of water in gaseous and liquid phases. Within the temperature range of our interest, e s (T) is close to an exponential function of T if T is in C. For example, the M&P textbook uses teh approximation, e s (T) A exp(βt), where A = 6.11 mb, β = 0.067, and T in C

10 Clausius-Clapeyron equation The saturation vapor pressure increases sharply with temperature; A small increase in T leads to a large increase in e s (T)

11 Example: T = 23 C ( K) e s (T) = 28.1 mb T = 26 C ( K) e s (T) = 33.6 mb 3 C increase in temperature leads to ~ 20% increase in the saturation vapor pressure. If the air is saturated (e.g., near the surface of the ocean), this implies a 20% increase in the amount of water vapor (in terms of pressure) in the air Within this range, T T 3o K o K 0.01, and e s e s 5.5mb 28.1mb 0.19, therefore d e s e s d T T.

12 More on Clausius-Clapeyron equation One can think of e s (T) as the upper bound of e for a given T. Since e s (T) decreases sharply with a decreasing temperature, and since atmospheric temperature generally decreases with height within the troposphere, we expect the moisture content in the atmosphere to decrease sharply with height Most of the water vapor is concentrated in the lower troposphere (between the surface and ~ 850 mb)

13 Preview of things to come... Water balance for an air column Vq E P Precipitation Evaporation = Convergence of moisture P E = (vq)dz, q is specific humidity

14 Clausius-Clapeyron related... Desert climate (subtropics) Mean subsidence dry climate Dry z Wet q(z) Tropics Subtropics Extratropics Specific humidity Horizontal mass flux: in = out Horizontal moisture flux: in < out Evaporation exceeds precipitation

15 World's major deserts are located in regions with large-scale subsidence Picture source: NASA JPL

16 Observed climatology of evaporation minus precipitation (ECMWF Reanalysis, ERA-40 annual mean) Yellow: Dry zone, E > P

17 Saturation specific humidity q s is the critical value such that condensation may occur when q > q s From Eq. (3) or (4), q s = p e s 1 e s p. Eq. (5) Since e s depends on T, q s depends on both T and p. It can also be shown that, under a wide range of conditions, d q s q s d T T. Eq. (6) (It is left to you as an exercise to show that Eq. (6) is a good approximation. This is also related to Prob 6 of Ch.4 in M&P textbook.)

18 Relative humidity RH q / q s Condensation can begin to happen when RH 1 Sometimes (especially when the air is very clean - no "cloud condensation nuclei"), one can observe the situation that condensation does not occur until RH > 1 (supersaturation). We will skip this detail for now.

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