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The response of stratospheric water vapor to climate change driven by different...

Wang, X., and A. Dessler (2020), The response of stratospheric water vapor to climate change driven by different forcing agents, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 20, 13267-13282, doi:10.5194/acp-20-13267-2020.

We investigate the response of stratospheric water vapor (SWV) to different forcing agents within the Precipitation Driver and Response Model Intercomparison Project (PDRMIP) framework. For each model and forcing agent, we break down the SWV response into a slow response, which is coupled to surface temperature changes, and a fast response, which is the response to external forcing but before the sea surface temperatures have responded. Our results show that, for most climate perturbations, the slow SWV response dominates the fast response. The slow SWV response exhibits a similar sensitivity to surface temperature across all climate perturbations. Specifically, the sensitivity is 0.35 ppmv K−1 in the tropical lower stratosphere (TLS), 2.1 ppmv K−1 in the northern hemispheric lowermost stratosphere (LMS), and 0.97 ppmv K−1 in the southern hemispheric LMS. In the TLS, the fast SWV response only dominates the slow SWV response when the forcing agent radiatively heats the coldpoint region – for example, black carbon, which directly heats the atmosphere by absorbing solar radiation. The fast SWV response in the TLS is primarily controlled by the fast adjustment of cold-point temperature across all climate perturbations. This control becomes weaker at higher altitudes in the tropics and altitudes below 150 hPa in the LMS.

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Research Program: 
Atmospheric Composition
Climate Variability and Change Program
Funding Sources: 
This research was supported by NASA (grant nos. 80NSSC18K0134 and 80NSSC19K0757).