Is the specific humidity of the ocean constant?

Is the specific humidity of the ocean constant?

Yes, I agree that the system cannot maintain a constant specific humidity in the boundary layer over the ocean with warming due to falling RH, and the specific humidity increases with temperature approximately by the following C-C rate (as shown in Fig.1 of Held and Soden, 2006).

However, this does not mean that the total mass of water vapor in the atmosphere will increase significantly with increasing temperatures. As mentioned above, the bulk atmospheric moisture content tends to decrease with increasing temperatures because of increased latent heat flux out of the atmosphere. Therefore, if the rate at which liquid water is added to the atmosphere through precipitation and other processes is equal to the rate at which it is removed, then the concentration of water vapor in the atmosphere can't change significantly with time.

The specific humidity of the ocean varies mostly as a function of sea surface temperature. When it is cold, there is less water vapor in the air above the ocean because most of it remains as liquid water below the sea surface; when it is warm, more water vapor exists in the air because more vapor changes to liquid form above the surface. However, since the amount of moisture in the air cannot exceed the maximum possible saturation level given the pressure, the specific humidity always stays between 0 and 100%.

Held and Soden (2006) used data from various sources to estimate how much moisture goes into and comes out of the atmosphere each year.

Is the ocean floor warm?

Regardless matter how warm or cold the top layers are, the ocean floor tends to be roughly the same temperature. The heat from the Earth's core reaches all the way to the surface of the sea, but is then lost into space by radiation. This means that there is generally no difference in temperature between the deep parts of the ocean and the air above it.

However, recent research has shown that there may be small regions of the ocean floor where temperatures do differ slightly from their surroundings. These spots tend to be close to underwater volcanoes or other sources of hot water, but even they don't reach much above freezing.

The cause of these microclimates is not known for certain, but they might have something to do with differences in rock composition that allow for different rates of heat loss or absorption. They may also be due to changes in water density caused by fluctuations in salt concentration. However, the most likely explanation is that they result from random variations in the geometry of the Earth's crust under the sea.

It should be noted that although the ocean floor is generally about the same temperature as its surroundings, this does not mean that it is always the case.

Does ocean water vapor contribute to precipitation?

The ocean is an important part of the water cycle. Evaporation from the sea surface is crucial in the flow of heat in the climate system, in addition to influencing the amount of atmospheric water vapor and so rainfall. Ocean waters evaporate more than land surfaces because they contain more water overall and their temperature is lower. As a result, evaporation from the sea surface is one of the most important processes controlling the amount of moisture in the atmosphere.

At any given time, some of the water vapor in the atmosphere is dissolved in ocean water. When it rains, some of this dissolved water becomes aerosols that are small enough to be suspended in the atmosphere for long periods of time. Other portions of the dissolved water vapor escape when clouds form over the ocean and release their load of salt into the atmosphere.

When it does not rain, some of this water vapor remains trapped in the atmosphere as liquid droplets of water ice. In the Antarctic, for example, where there is no net loss or gain of mass, more water vapor than ice exists at any given time. The rest forms clouds that block out the sun and cause cooling temperatures.

In general, more water vapor in the atmosphere means warmer temperatures. However, when it comes to precipitation, more water vapor in the atmosphere can mean either more or less depending on how much energy is available to drive it toward precipitation.

About Article Author

Bobby Anderson

Bobby Anderson is a biologist with a deep passion for preserving biodiversity. She is fascinated by the natural world and all its inhabitants, but her research focuses on mammals in particular. Bobby graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with honors in Animal Science and Environmental Studies. Bobby currently works as an Assistant Professor as she teaches courses to undergraduate students about ecology and conservation biology.

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