MLS Research

Water Vapor and Cloud Feedbacks

Contact Hui Su

Water vapor plays an important role in global climate change through its influence in hydrological and energy cycles, and for its radiative effect as the strongest greenhouse gas.

The ability of the atmosphere to hold more water vapor with increasing temperature leads to an important positive feedback for the estimate of global warming in response to the increase in CO2. This feedback is highly sensitive to upper tropospheric water vapor (UTWV). Meanwhile, clouds provide significant radiative forcing to the climate system in their own right.

The Microwave Limb Sounder on Aura satellite provides unprecedented simultaneous measurements of UTWV and cloud ice profiles. Analysis of these datasets has contributed and will continue contributing to our understanding of the dynamics controlling water vapor and cloud variations, and to help quantifying their feedbacks to climate change. In particular, MLS observations contradict the so-called 'Iris hypothesis' which holds that changes in upper tropospheric clouds will give a negative feedback on climate change.

MLS-related publications related to water vapor and cloud feedbacks on climate

  1. Gamelin, B., L. Carvalho and C. Jones
    Evaluating the influence of deep convection on tropopause thermodynamics and lower stratospheric water vapor: A RELAMPAGO case study using the WRF model
  2. Ziv, S.Z., C. Garfinkel, S. Davis and A. Banerjee
    The roles of the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation and El Niño for entry stratospheric water vapor in observations and coupled chemistry–ocean CCMI and CMIP6 models
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-22-7523-2022, 2022
  3. Dion, I., C. Dallet, P. Ricaud, F. Carminati, T. Dauhut and P. Haynes
    Ice injected into the tropopause by deep convection – Part 2: Over the Maritime Continent
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-21-2191-2021, 2021
  4. Keeble, J., B. Hassler, A. Banerjee, R. Checa-Garcia, G. Chiodo, S. Davis, V. Eyring, P. Griffiths, O. Morgenstern, P. Nowack, G. Zeng, J. Zhang, G. Bodeker, S. Burrows, P. Cameron-Smith, D. Cugnet, C. Danek, M. Deushi, L. Horowitz, A. Kubin, L. Li, G. Lohmann, M. Michou, M. Mills, P. Nabat, D. Olivié, S. Park, O. Seland, J. Stoll, K. Wieners and T. Wu
    Evaluating stratospheric ozone and water vapour changes in CMIP6 models from 1850 to 2100
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-21-5015-2021, 2021
  5. Plaza, N., A. Podglajen, C. Peña-Ortiz and F. Ploeger
    Processes influencing lower stratospheric water vapour in monsoon anticyclones: insights from Lagrangian modelling
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-21-9585-2021, 2021
  6. Wang, T., D. Wu, J. Gong and C. Wang
    Long‐Term Observations of Upper‐Tropospheric Cloud Ice From the MLS
    Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres doi:10.1029/2020jd034058, 2021
  7. Das, S. and K.V. Suneeth
    Seasonal and interannual variations of water vapor in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere over the Asian Summer Monsoon region- in perspective of the tropopause and ocean-atmosphere interactions
    J. Atmos. Solar-Terr. Phys. doi:10.1016/j.jastp.2020.105244, 2020
  8. Dong, W.H., Y.L. Lin, M.H. Zhang and X.M. Huang
    Footprint of Tropical Mesoscale Convective System Variability on Stratospheric Water Vapor
    Geophys. Res. Lett. doi:10.1029/2019gl086320, 2020
  9. Kuai, L., K. Bowman, K. Miyazaki, M. Deushi, L. Revell, E. Rozanov, F. Paulot, S. Strode, A. Conley, J. Lamarque, P. Jöckel, D. Plummer, L. Oman, H. Worden, S. Kulawik, D. Paynter, A. Stenke and M. Kunze
    Attribution of Chemistry-Climate Model Initiative CCMI ozone radiative flux bias from satellites
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-20-281-2020, 2020
  10. Qu, Z., Y. Huang, P. Vaillancourt, J. Cole, J. Milbrandt, M. Yau, K. Walker and J.D. Grandpré
    Simulation of convective moistening of the extratropical lower stratosphere using a numerical weather prediction model
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-20-2143-2020, 2020
  11. Uma, K.N., T.S. Mohan and S. Das
    Role of Intra-Seasonal Variability in the Indian Summer Monsoon on the Hydration and Dehydration of the Upper Troposphere
    Theoretical and Applied Climatology doi:10.1007/s00704-020-03243-y, 2020
  12. Yu, W., A. Dessler, M. Park and E. Jensen
    Influence of convection on stratospheric water vapor in the North American monsoon region
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-20-12153-2020, 2020
  13. Stanfield, R., H. Su, J. Jiang, S. Freitas, A. Molod, Z. Luo, L. Huang and M. Luo
    Convective Entrainment Rates Estimated From Aura CO and CloudSat/CALIPSO Observations and Comparison With GEOS‐5
    Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres doi:10.1029/2019jd030846, 2019
  14. Weaver, D., K. Strong, K. Walker, C. Sioris, M. Schneider, C.T. McElroy, H. Vömel, M. Sommer, K. Weigel, A. Rozanov, J. Burrows, W. Read, E. Fishbein and G. Stiller
    Comparison of ground-based and satellite measurements of water vapour vertical profiles over Ellesmere Island, Nunavut
    Atmospheric Measurement Techniques doi:10.5194/amt-12-4039-2019, 2019
  15. Tian, E., H. Su, B. Tian and J. Jiang
    Interannual variations of water vapor in the tropical uppertroposphere and the lower and middle stratosphere and theirconnections to ENSO and QBO
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss. doi:10.5194/acp-2018-1010, 2018
  16. Ueyama, R., E. Jensen and L. Pfister
    Convective Influence on the Humidity and Clouds in the Tropical Tropopause Layer During Boreal Summer
    Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres doi:10.1029/2018jd028674, 2018
  17. Anderson, J., D. Weisenstein, K. Bowman, C. Homeyer, J. Smith, D. Wilmouth, D. Sayres, J.E. Klobas, S. Leroy, J. Dykema and S. Wofsy
    Stratospheric ozone over the United States in summer linked to observations of convection and temperature via chlorine and bromine catalysis
    Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. doi:10.1073/pnas.1619318114, 2017
  18. Avery, M., S. Davis, K. Rosenlof, H. Ye and A. Dessler
    Large anomalies in lower stratospheric water vapour and ice during the 2015–2016 El Niño
    Nature Geoscience doi:10.1038/ngeo2961, 2017
  19. Gilford, D. and S. Solomon
    Radiative Effects of Stratospheric Seasonal Cycles in the Tropical Upper Troposphere and Lower Stratosphere
    J. Climate doi:10.1175/jcli-d-16-0633.1, 2017
  20. Hegglin, M., S. Tegtmeier, J. Anderson, A. Bourassa, S. Brohede, D. Degenstein, L. Froidevaux, B. Funke, J. Gille, A. Jones, Y. Kasai, E. Kyrola, J. Lumpe, J. Neu, E. Remsberg, A. Rozanov, M. Toohey, J. Urban, T. von Clarmann, K.A. Walker and R. Wang
    The SPARC Data Initiative: Assessment of stratospheric trace gas and aerosol climatologies from satellite limb sounders
  21. Herman, R., E. Ray, K. Rosenlof, K. Bedka, M. Schwartz, W. Read, R. Troy, K. Chin, L. Christensen, D. Fu, R. Stachnik, T.P. Bui and J. Dean-Day
    Enhanced stratospheric water vapor over the summertime continental United States and the role of overshooting convection
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-17-6113-2017, 2017
  22. Lossow, S., F. Khosrawi, G. Nedoluha, F. Azam, K. Bramstedt, J. Burrows, B. Dinelli, P. Eriksson, P. Espy, M. García-Comas, J. Gille, M. Kiefer, S. Noël, P. Raspollini, W. Read, K. Rosenlof, A. Rozanov, C. Sioris, G. Stiller, K. Walker and K. Weigel
    The SPARC water vapour assessment II: comparison of annual, semi-annual and quasi-biennial variations in stratospheric and lower mesospheric water vapour observed from satellites
    Atmospheric Measurement Techniques doi:10.5194/amt-10-1111-2017, 2017
  23. Smith, J., D. Wilmouth, K. Bedka, K. Bowman, C. Homeyer, J. Dykema, M. Sargent, C. Clapp, S. Leroy, D. Sayres, J. Dean-Day, T.P. Bui and J. Anderson
    A case study of convectively sourced water vapor observed in the overworld stratosphere over the United States
    Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres doi:10.1002/2017jd026831, 2017
  24. Thompson, D., S. Bony and Y. Li
    Thermodynamic constraint on the depth of the global tropospheric circulation
    Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. doi:10.1073/pnas.1620493114, 2017
  25. Davis, S., K. Rosenlof, B. Hassler, D. Hurst, W. Read, H. Vömel, H. Selkirk, M. Fujiwara and R. Damadeo
    The Stratospheric Water and Ozone Satellite Homogenized SWOOSH database: a long-term database for climate studies
    Earth System Science Data doi:10.5194/essd-8-461-2016, 2016
  26. Elsaesser, G.S., A.D. Genio, J.H. Jiang and M. van Lier-Walqui
    An Improved Convective Ice Parameterization for the NASA GISS Global Climate Model and Impacts on Cloud Ice Simulation
    J. Climate doi:10.1175/JCLI-D, 2016
  27. Gilford, D., S. Solomon and R. Portmann
    Radiative Impacts of the 2011 Abrupt Drops in Water Vapor and Ozone in the Tropical Tropopause Layer
    J. Climate doi:10.1175/jcli-d-15-0167.1, 2016
  28. Gu, Y., K.N. Liou, J.H. Jiang, R. Fu, S. Lu and Y. Xue
    A GCM Investigation of Impact of Aerosols on the Precipitation in Amazon during the Dry to Wet Transition
    Climate Dynamics doi:10.1007/s00382-016-3211-7, 2016
  29. Minschwaner, K., H. Su and J.H. Jiang
    The upward branch of the Brewer-Dobson circulation quantified by tropical stratospheric water vapor and carbon monoxide measurements from the Aura Microwave Limb Sounder
    Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres doi:10.1002/2015JD023961, 2016
  30. Sioris, C., J. Zou, C.T. McElroy, C. Boone, P. Sheese and P. Bernath
    Water vapour variability in the high-latitude upper troposphere – Part 2: Impact of volcanic eruptions
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-16-2207-2016, 2016
  31. Takahashi, H., H. Su and J.H. Jiang
    Error analysis of upper tropospheric water vapor in CMIP5 models using “A-Train” satellite observations and reanalysis data
    Climate Dynamics doi:10.1007/s00382-015-2732-9, 2016
  32. Wang, Y., H. Su, J.H. Jiang, N.J. Livesey, M.L. Santee, P.C. Stek, L. Froidevaux, W.G. Read and J. Anderson
    The linkage between stratospheric water vapor and surface temperature in an observation-constrained coupled general circulation model
    Climate Dynamics doi:10.1007/s00382-016-3231-3, 2016
  33. Hardiman, S., I. Boutle, A. Bushell, N. Butchart, M. Cullen, P. Field, K. Furtado, J. Manners, S. Milton, C. Morcrette, F. O’Connor, B. Shipway, C. Smith, D. Walters, M. Willett, K. Williams, N. Wood, N.L. Abraham, J. Keeble, A. Maycock, J. Thuburn and M. Woodhouse
    Processes Controlling Tropical Tropopause Temperature and Stratospheric Water Vapor in Climate Models
    J. Climate doi:10.1175/jcli-d-15-0075.1, 2015
  34. Huang, L., J.H. Jiang, Z. Wang, H. Su, M. Deng and S. Massie
    Climatology of Cloud Water Content Associated with Different Cloud Types Observed by A-Train Satellites
    Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres doi:10.1002/2014JD022779, 2015
  35. Jiang, J.H., H. Su, C. Zhai, L. Wu, K. Minschwaner, A.M. Molod and A.M. Tompkins
    An assessment of upper-troposphere and lower-stratosphere water vapor in MERRA, MERRA2 and ECMWF reanalyses using Aura MLS observations
    Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres doi:10.1002/2015JD023752, 2015
  36. Eriksson, P., B. Rydberg, H. Sagawa, M.S. Johnston and Y. Kasai
    Overview and sample applications of SMILES and Odin-SMR retrievals of upper tropospheric humidity and cloud ice mass
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-14-12613-2014, 2014
  37. Jain, S., A.R. Jain and T.K. Mandal
    Dry phase of tropical lower stratospheric water vapor: Role of the BDC, convection, and ozone variability
    J. Atmos. Solar-Terr. Phys. doi:10.1016/j.jasp.2014.08.018, 2014
  38. Maycock, A.C., M.M. Joshi, K.P. Shine, S.M. Davis and K.H. Rosenlof
    The potential impact of changes in lower stratospheric water vapour on stratospheric temperatures over the past 30 years
    Q. J. Roy. Meteorol. Soc. doi:10.1002/qj.2287, 2014
  39. Uma, K.N., S.K. Das and S.S. Das
    A Climatological Perspective of Water Vapor at the UTLS Region over Different Global Monsoon Regions: Observations Inferred from the Aura-MLS and Reanalysis Data
    Climate Dynamics doi:10.1007/s00382-014-2085-9, 2014
  40. Wang, Y., M. Wang, R. Zhang, S.J. Ghan, Y. Lin, J. Hu, B. Pan, M. Levy, J.H. Jiang and M.J. Molina
    Assessing the effects of anthropogenic aerosols on Pacific storm track using a multiscale global climate model
    Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1403364111, 2014
  41. Khaykin, S.M., I. Engel, H. Vomel, I.M. Formanyuk, R. Kivi, L.I. Korshunov, M. Kramer, A.D. Lykov, S. Meier, T. Naebert, M.C. Pitts, M.L. Santee, N. Spelten, F.G. Wienhold, V.A. Yushkov and T. Peter
    Arctic stratospheric dehydration – Part 1: Unprecedented observation of vertical redistribution of water
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-13-11503-2013, 2013
  42. Livesey, N.J., J.A. Logan, M.L. Santee, J.W. Waters, R.M. Doherty, W.G. Read, L. Froidevaux and J.H. Jiang
    Interrelated variations of O3, CO and deep convection in the tropical/subtropical upper troposphere observed by the Aura Microwave Limb Sounder MLS during 2004–2011
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-13-579-2013, 2013
  43. Su, H., J.H. Jiang, C. Zhai, V.S. Perun, J.T. Shen, A.D. Genio, L.S. Nazarenko, L.J. Donner, L. Horowitz, C. Seman, C. Morcrette, J. Petch, M. Ringer, J. Cole, M. Mesquita, T. Iversen, J.E. Kristjansson, A. Gettelman, L. Rotstayn, S. Jeffrey, J.L. Dufresne, M. Watanabe, H. Kawai, T. Koshiro, T. Wu, E.M. Volodin, T. L'Ecuyer, J. Teixeira and G.L. Stephens
    Diagnosis of Regime-dependent Cloud Simulation Errors in CMIP5 Models Using A-Train Satellite Observations
    J. Geophys. Res. doi:10.1029/2012JD018575, 2013
  44. Su, H. and J.H. Jiang
    Tropical Clouds and Circulation Changes During the 2006-07 and 2009-10 El Niños
  45. Azam, F., K. Bramstedt, A. Rozanov, K. Weigel, H. Bovensmann, G.P. Stiller and J.P. Burrows
    SCIAMACHY lunar occultation water vapor measurements: retrieval and validation results
    Atmospheric Measurement Techniques doi:10.5194/amt-5-2499-2012, 2012
  46. Flury, T., D.L. Wu and W.G. Read
    Correlation among cirrus ice content, water vapor, and temperature in the TTL as observed by CALIPSO and Aura/MLS
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-12-683-2012, 2012
  47. Huang, L., R. Fu, J.H. Jiang, J.S. Wright and M. Luo
    Geographic and seasonal distributions of CO transport pathways and their roles in determining CO centers in the upper troposphere
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-12-4683-2012, 2012
  48. Jiang, J.H., H. Su, C. Zhai, V.S. Perun, A. Del Genio, L.S. Nazarenko, L.J. Donner, L. Horowitz, C. Seman, J. Cole, A. Gettelman, M. Ringer, L. Rotstayn, S. Jeffrey, T. Wu, F. Brient, J-L. Dufresne, H. Kawai, T. Koshiro, M. Watanabe, T.S. LÉcuyer, E.M. Volodin, T. Iversen, H. Drange, M.S. Mesquita, W.G. Read, J.W. Waters, B. Tian, J. Teixeira and G.L. Stephens
    Evaluation of Cloud and Water Vapor Simulations in CMIP5 Climate Models Using NASA A-Train Satellite Observations
    J. Geophys. Res. doi:10.1029/2011JD017237, 2012
  49. Wang, T. and A.E. Dessler
    Analysis of cirrus in the tropical tropopause layer from CALIPSO and MLS data: A water perspective
    Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres doi:10.1029/2011jd016442, 2012
  50. Winkler, H., C. von Savigny, J.P. Burrows, J.M. Wissing, M.J. Schwartz, A. Lambert and M. Garcia-Comas
    Impacts of the January 2005 solar particle event on noctilucent clouds and water at the polar summer mesopause
    Atmos. Chem. Phys. doi:10.5194/acp-12-5633-2012, 2012