Hydration of the upper troposphere by tropical cyclones

Ray, E., and K. Rosenlof (2007), Hydration of the upper troposphere by tropical cyclones, J. Geophys. Res., 112, D12311, doi:10.1029/2006JD008009.

Tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and Pacific ocean basins are found to have a significant impact on the amount of water vapor in the tropical and subtropical upper troposphere. Measurements from AIRS on Aqua and MLS on Aura are used to reveal details of the water vapor and temperature structure of the upper troposphere in the vicinity of tropical cyclones that have been unavailable from previous satellite observations. These measurements show that the most intense tropical cyclones (categories 4 and 5) increase average water vapor mixing ratios between 300 and 150 hPa in a roughly 1500 km2 area around the cyclones by 10–50% over their lifetimes. Category 3 and weaker tropical cyclones hydrate the upper troposphere on average roughly half as effectively as the most intense cyclones. The most intense cyclones also increase average water vapor in the upper troposphere by 2–10% in the entire ocean basin in which they occur. This amount of hydration of the tropical upper troposphere suggests that tropical cyclones play a role in the water vapor budget, and associated climate feedbacks, in a region much larger than the cyclone vicinity.

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Atmospheric Dynamics and Precipitation Program (ADP)