NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Physics of greenhouse effect and convection in warm oceansSea surface temperature (SST) in roughly 50% of the tropical Pacific Ocean is warm enough (SST greater than 300 K) to permit deep convection. This paper examines the effects of deep convection on the climatological mean vertical distributions of water vapor and its greenhouse effect over such warm oceans. The study, which uses a combination of satellite radiation budget observations, atmospheric soundings deployed from ships, and radiation model calculations, also examines the link between SST, vertical distribution of water vapor, and its greenhouse effect in the tropical oceans. Since the focus of the study is on the radiative effects of water vapor, the radiation model calculations do not include the effects of clouds. The data are grouped into nonconvective and convective categories using SST as an index for convective activity. On average, convective regions are more humid, trap significantly more longwave radiation, and emit more radiation to the sea surface. The greenhouse effect in regions of convection operates as per classical ideas, that is, as the SST increases, the atmosphere traps the excess longwave energy emitted by the surface and reradiates it locally back to the ocean surface. The important departure from the classical picture is that the net (up minus down) fluxes at the surface and at the top of the atmosphere decrease with an increase in SST; that is, the surface and the surface-troposphere column lose the ability to radiate the excess energy to space. The cause of this super greenhouse effect at the surface is the rapid increase in the lower-troposphere humidity with SST; that of the column is due to a combination of increase in humidity in the entire column and increase in the lapse rate within the lower troposphere. The increase in the vertical distribution of humidity far exceeds that which can be attributed to the temperature dependence of saturation vapor pressure; that is, the tropospheric relative humidity is larger in convective regions. The positive coupling between SST and the radiative warming of the surface by the water vapor greenhouse effect is also shown to exist on interannual time scales.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Inamdar, A. K. (Univ. of California at San Diego La Jolla, CA, United States)
Ramanathan, V. (Univ. of California at San Diego La Jolla, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 16, 2013
Publication Date
May 1, 1994
Publication Information
Publication: Journal of Climate
Volume: 7
Issue: 5
ISSN: 0894-8755
Subject Category
Distribution Limits