Lower-tropospheric humidity: climatology, trends and the relation to the ITCZ

Läderach, Alexander; Raible, Christoph (2013). Lower-tropospheric humidity: climatology, trends and the relation to the ITCZ. Tellus. Series A - dynamic meteorology and oceanography, 65(1), p. 20413. Blackwell Munksgaard 10.3402/tellusa.v65i0.20413

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The tropical region is an area of maximum humidity and serves as the major humidity source of the globe. Among other phenomena, it is governed by the so-called Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) which is commonly defined by converging low-level winds or enhanced precipitation. Given its importance as a humidity source, we investigate the humidity fields in the tropics in different reanalysis data sets, deduce the climatology and variability and assess the relationship to the ITCZ. Therefore, a new analysis method of the specific humidity distribution is introduced which allows detecting the location of the humidity maximum, the strength and the meridional extent. The results show that the humidity maximum in boreal summer is strongly shifted northward over the warm pool/Asia Monsoon area and the Gulf of Mexico. These shifts go along with a peak in the strength in both areas; however, the extent shrinks over the warm pool/Asia Monsoon area, whereas it is wider over the Gulf of Mexico. In winter, such connections between location, strength and extent are not found. Still, a peak in strength is again identified over the Gulf of Mexico in boreal winter. The variability of the three characteristics is dominated by inter-annual signals in both seasons. The results using ERA-interim data suggest a positive trend in the Gulf of Mexico/Atlantic region from 1979 to 2010, showing an increased northward shift in the recent years. Although the trend is only weakly confirmed by the results using MERRA reanalysis data, it is in phase with a trend in hurricane activity�a possible hint of the importance of the new method on hurricanes. Furthermore, the position of the maximum humidity coincides with one of the ITCZ in most areas. One exception is the western and central Pacific, where the area is dominated by the double ITCZ in boreal winter. Nevertheless, the new method enables us to gain more insight into the humidity distribution, its variability and the relationship to ITCZ characteristics.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Läderach, Alexander and Raible, Christoph


500 Science > 530 Physics
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Blackwell Munksgaard




Doris Rätz

Date Deposited:

15 Sep 2014 11:38

Last Modified:

09 Apr 2017 01:56

Publisher DOI:






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