A team of scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer on NASA's Aura satellite to gather data on "heavy" and "light" water vapor in order to retrace the history of water over oceans and continents, from ice and liquid to vapor and back again. The researchers were able to distinguish between the two because heavy water vapor molecules have more neutrons than lighter ones do.
By analyzing the distribution of the heavy and light molecules, the team was able to deduce the sources and processes that cycle water, the most abundant greenhouse gas in Earth's atmosphere, said David Noone of CU-Boulder's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Noone, an assistant professor in CU-Boulder's atmospheric and oceanic sciences department, is the corresponding author of a paper on the subject that appears in the Feb. 1 issue of Nature.
The team found that tropical rainfall evaporation and water "exhaled" by forests are key sources of moisture to the tropical atmosphere. The researchers noted that much more water than expected is transported into the lower troposphere over land than over oceans, especially over the Amazon River basin and in tropical Africa.
"One might expect most of the water to come directly from the wet ocean," said Noone. "Instead, it appears that thunderstorm activity over the tropical continents plays a key role in keeping the troposphere hydrated."
The team found that in the tropics and regions of tropical rain clouds, rainfall evaporation significantly adds moisture to the lower troposphere, with typically 20 percent and up to 50 percent of rain there evaporating before it reaches the ground. "This mechanism allows the atmosphere to retain some of the water, which can be used later, for instance, to make clouds," Noone said.
The strength and location of such evaporation gives scientists new insights into how water in Earth's atmosphere helps move energy from Earth's surface upward, important since the main role of the atmosphere in Earth's climate system is to take energy deposited by the sun and return it to space, said Noone.
The team also found evidence that water transported upward by thunderstorm activity over land originates from both plant "exhalation" in large forests and evaporation over nearby oceans. The balance between the two sources indicates how vegetation interacts with climate and helps maintain regional rainfall levels.
"This link between vegetation, hydrology and climate has implications for how societies choose to manage their ecological resources," said Noone. "Our measurements provide a baseline against which future changes in vegetation and climate interactions can be measured."
The team said there has been a general lack of information on the way water moves around in Earth's atmosphere - where it comes from and where it ends up.
"We know the details of this journey are critical for understanding clouds and climate, as well as changes in precipitation patterns and water resources," said Noone.
"Our study measures the conditions under which precipitation and evaporation occur, providing insights into the processes responsible. Better knowledge of these processes ultimately leads to a clearer understanding of the factors that drive the global water cycle and its importance in climate and global climate change."
"Since we measure the history of water, so to speak, we can tell the difference between air masses that have undergone extensive condensation from those that are dominated by evaporation from the ocean surface," said co-author John Worden of JPL.
"These results also lay the groundwork for research to help interpret the isotopic measurements that scientists use to study Earth's climate in the past," said JPL co-author Kevin Bowman.
In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
21.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.09.2017 | Life Sciences
21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine