Thermodynamic constraint on the depth of the global tropospheric circulation

David W. J. Thompson, Sandrine Bony, Ying Li

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The troposphere is the region of the atmosphere characterized by low static stability, vigorous diabatic mixing, and widespread condensational heating in clouds. Previous research has argued that in the tropics, the upper bound on tropospheric mixing and clouds is constrained by the rapid decrease with height of the saturation water vapor pressure and hence radiative cooling by water vapor in clear-sky regions. Here the authors contend that the same basic physics play a key role in constraining the vertical structure of tropospheric mixing, tropopause temperature, and cloud-top temperature throughout the globe. It is argued that radiative cooling by water vapor plays an important role in governing the depth and amplitude of large-scale dynamics at extratropical latitudes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8181-8186
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number31
Early online date17 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

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