Why Does the Stratosphere Get Wetter During the 21st Century?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Andrew E Dessler, Texas A&M Univ, College Station, TX, United States, Mark R Schoeberl, Science and Technology Corporation, Boulder, CO, United States, Tao Wang, Texas A & M University, College Station, TX, United States, Anne R Douglass, NASA Goddard SFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States and Luke Oman, NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States
All chemistry-climate models predict that 1) the TTL warms during the 21st century and 2) that the humidity of air entering the stratosphere increases over this same period. It seems reasonable to conclude that the former causes the latter, but to our knowledge no one has actually tested that. We do so here by analyzing one chemistry-climate model in detail (the Goddard Earth Observing System Chemistry Climate Model, GEOSCCM) and find that the warming of the TTL explains only a fraction of the increase in humidity of air entering the stratosphere. We do this by using meteorological fields from the model to drive a trajectory model, which estimates the water vapor variations in response to the large-scale temperature field. Water vapor simulated by the trajectory model increases by about one quarter of the amount it increases in the GEOSCCM. We conclude that, over the 21st century, an increase in the flux of ice through the TTL is responsible for most of the increase in the humidity of air entering the stratosphere in this model.