Identification of human-induced changes in atmospheric moisture content

B. D. Santer, C. Mears, F. J. Wentz, K. E. Taylor, P. J. Gleckler, T. M.L. Wigley, T. P. Barnett, J. S. Boyle, W. Brüggemann, N. P. Gillette, S. A. Klein, G. A. Meehl, T. Nozawa, D. W. Pierce, P. A. Stott, W. M. Washington, M. F. Wehner

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Abstract

Data from the satellite-based Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) show that the total atmospheric moisture content over oceans has increased by 0.41 kg/m2 per decade since 1988. Results from current climate models indicate that water vapor increases of this magnitude cannot be explained by climate noise alone. In a formal detection and attribution analysis using the pooled results from 22 different climate models, the simulated "fingerprint" pattern of anthropogenically caused changes in water vapor is identifiable with high statistical confidence in the SSM/I data. Experiments in which forcing factors are varied individually suggest that this fingerprint "match" is primarily due to human-caused increases in greenhouse gases and not to solar forcing or recovery from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Our findings provide preliminary evidence of an emerging anthropogenic signal in the moisture content of earth's atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15248-15253
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume104
Issue number39
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 25 2007

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Climate modeling
  • Detection and attribution
  • Water vapor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Santer, B. D., Mears, C., Wentz, F. J., Taylor, K. E., Gleckler, P. J., Wigley, T. M. L., Barnett, T. P., Boyle, J. S., Brüggemann, W., Gillette, N. P., Klein, S. A., Meehl, G. A., Nozawa, T., Pierce, D. W., Stott, P. A., Washington, W. M., & Wehner, M. F. (2007). Identification of human-induced changes in atmospheric moisture content. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(39), 15248-15253. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0702872104