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NASA Experiment on Tropospheric-Stratospheric Water Vapor Transport in the Intertropical Convergence ZoneThe following six papers report preliminary results obtained from a field experiment designed to study the role of tropical cumulo-nimbus clouds in the transfer of water vapor from the troposphere to the stratosphere over the region of Panama. The measurements were made utilizing special NOAA enhanced IR satellite images, radiosonde-ozonesondes and a NASA U-2 aircraft carrying. nine experiments. The experiments were provided by a group of NASA, NOAA, industry, and university scientists. Measurements included atmospheric humidity, air and cloud top temperatures, atmospheric tracer constituents, cloud particle characteristics and cloud morphology. The aircraft made a total of eleven flights from August 30 through September 18, 1980, from Howard Air Force Base, Panama; the pilots obtained horizontal and vertical profiles in and near convectively active regions and flew around and over cumulo-nimbus towers and through the extended anvils in the stratosphere. Cumulo-nimbus clouds in the tropics appear to play an important role in upward water vapor transport and may represent the principal source influencing the stratospheric water vapor budget. The clouds provide strong vertical circulation in the troposphere, mixing surface air and its trace materials (water vapor, CFM's sulfur compounds, etc.) quickly up to the tropopause. It is usually assumed that large scale mean motions or eddy scale motions transport the trace materials through the tropopause and into the stratosphere where they are further dispersed and react with other stratospheric constituents. The important step between the troposphere and stratosphere for water vapor appears to depend upon the processes occurring at or near the tropopause at the tops of the cumulo-nimbus towers. Several processes have been sugested: (1) The highest towers penetrate the tropopause and carry water in the form of small ice particles directly into the stratosphere. (2) Water vapor from the tops of the cumulonimbus clouds is transported somehow through the tropopause, the vapor pressure being controlled by the temperature at the tops of the clouds; the dryness of the stratosphere could be explained if most of the transport occurs in connection with very high clouds in regions with very high and cold tropopause. (3) Cumulo-nimbus anvils act as terrestrial-radiation shields allowing the ice particle temperatures near cloud tops to cool radiatively below the supersaturation point; this cooling would cause a vapor deposition on the ice particles which will settle out and thus act as water scavengers. The experiment was designed to collect information on these detailed physical processes near and above the tropopause in order to assess their importance and the role they play in controlling stratospheric water vapor humidity.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Page, William A.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
June 1, 1982
Publication Information
Publication: Geophysical Research Letters
Volume: 9
Issue: 6
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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