5.6 Polar Specific Humidity Inversions in Five Reanalyses

Tuesday, 30 April 2013: 9:45 AM
South Room (Renaissance Seattle Hotel)
Michael A. Brunke, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; and S. T. Stegall and X. Zeng

Specific humidity is generally thought to decrease with height in the troposphere, but specific humidity inversions, layers in which specific humidity increases with height, have been previously observed. Here, we document the climatology of these inversions in five reanalyses [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Prediction second reanalysis (NCEP-2), the European Centre for Medium-Range Forecasts (ECMWF) 40-year reanalysis (ERA-40), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Modern Era Retrospective Analysis for Research Applications (MERRA), and NOAA's Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR), and the ECMWF interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim)]. Humidity inversions are most frequent in the polar regions and are generally most persistent in these regions in winter. However, they tend to be the strongest (as defined by the humidity difference across the inversion divided by the pressure difference across the inversion) in summer or autumn with low bases (at pressures > 900 hPa in the Arctic). These inversions are confirmed by rawinsonde data, but there are discrepancies between the observed annual and diurnal cycle in inversion frequency and those portrayed in the reanalyses. The reanalyses will also be used to explore the dominant conditions under which these humidity inversions form in the polar regions. Such an analysis can be used to evaluate the performance of global coupled climate system models such as those of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) in producing such humidity inversions.
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