Volume 87 Issue 37 | p. 29 | Concentrates
Issue Date: September 14, 2009

Heavy-Water Data Aid Climate Models

Measurements of isotopic ratios of H2O and HDO in the atmosphere provide new data that should improve climate predictions
Department: Science & Technology | Collection: Climate Change
Keywords: water cycle, climate modeling, atmosphere
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Better data on the distribution of H2O and HDO in the lower troposphere will help improve climate models.
Credit: Science
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Better data on the distribution of H2O and HDO in the lower troposphere will help improve climate models.
Credit: Science

Some views of Earth’s water cycle may evaporate as new atmospheric measurements reveal that existing proxy data used in climate models may be misrepresenting important ratios of H2O and its deuterated sibling HDO in the lower atmosphere, particularly over Africa (Science 2009, 325, 1374). Because water vapor is considered the most important greenhouse gas, understanding the global hydrological cycle is key to accurate climate modeling. Isotopic ratios of water vapor provide a valuable tool to do so, notes an international research team led by Christian Frankenberg of the Netherlands Institute for Space Research. The researchers used satellite-based absorption spectroscopy to collect the first water vapor isotope data obtained in the lower troposphere, where the majority of the atmosphere’s water vapor is found. They then generated a global map showing variations in atmospheric water vapor. Last year, another team reported the first isotopic data acquired higher up in the atmosphere. “For future climate predictions, general circulation models have to be validated for their ability to correctly represent current hydrological cycles, including cloud processes, moist convection and atmospheric transport,” the researchers write.

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society

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