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Atmospheric Water

Goals for today

Review Exercise 1
Define measures of water vapor in air
Define vapor pressure and its relation with
Water vapor in an atmospheric column
Computation of precipitable water
Patterns of water vapor and precipitable water in
space and time
Reading for Tues Applied Hydrology Sec 3.3
and 3.4 on rainfall and precipitation
Energy fluxes, July 2003
Energy flux components, July 2003

Daily average values

Energy fluxes, Jan 2003
Energy flux comparison

January, 2003

July, 2003

Daily average values

Water vapor
Suppose we have an elementary volume of atmosphere dV and
we want quantify how much water vapor it contains

Water vapor density v dV
ma ma = mass of moist air
Air density a mv = mass of water vapor

Atmospheric gases:
Nitrogen 78.1%
Oxygen 20.9%
Other gases ~ 1%'s_atmosphere.html
Specific Humidity, qv
Specific humidity
measures the mass of
water vapor per unit
mass of moist air qv
It is dimensionless a
Vapor pressure, e
Vapor pressure, e, is the
pressure that water vapor
exerts on a surface
Air pressure, p, is the
total pressure that air
makes on a surface
Ideal gas law relates
pressure to absolute
temperature T, Rv is the
e v RvT
gas constant for water
0.622 is ratio of mol. wt.
of water vapor to avg mol. qv 0.622
wt. of dry air p
Daltons Law of Partial Pressures
John Dalton studied the effect of gases in a
mixture. He observed that the Total Pressure of
a gas mixture was the sum of the Partial
Pressure of each gas.

P total = P1 + P2 + P3 + .......Pn

The Partial Pressure is defined as the pressure

of a single gas in the mixture as if that gas
alone occupied the container. In other words,
Dalton maintained that since there was an
enormous amount of space between the gas
molecules within the mixture that the gas
molecules did not have any influence on the
motion of other gas molecules, therefore the
pressure of a gas sample would be the same
whether it was the only gas in the container or if
it were among other gases.
Saturation vapor pressure, es
Saturation vapor pressure occurs when air is holding all the water vapor
that it can at a given air temperature

es 611 exp
237.3 T

Vapor pressure is measured in Pascals (Pa), where 1 Pa = 1 N/m2

1 kPa = 1000 Pa
Relative humidity, Rh


Rh Relative humidity measures the percent
of the saturation water content of the air
es that it currently holds (0 100%)
Dewpoint Temperature, Td

Td T

Dewpoint temperature is the air temperature

at which the air would be saturated with its current
vapor content
Water vapor in an air column
We have three equations 2 Column
describing column:
Hydrostatic air pressure,
Element, dz
dp/dz = -ag
Lapse rate of temperature,
dT/dz = -
Ideal gas law, p = aRaT
Combine them and 1
integrate over column to
g / Ra
get pressure variation T2
elevation p2 p1
Precipitable Water
In an element dz, the 2 Column
mass of water vapor
is dmp
Element, dz
Integrate over the
whole atmospheric
column to get
precipitable water,mp
Area = A
mp/A gives
precipitable water per
unit area in kg/m2 dm p qv a Adz
Precipitable Water, Jan 2003
Precipitable Water, July 2003