16 Jun 2022
16 Jun 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Small scale variability of water vapor in the atmosphere: implications for inter-comparison of data from different measuring systems

Xavier Calbet1, Cintia Carbajal Henken2, Sergio DeSouza-Machado3, Bomin Sun4, and Tony Reale5 Xavier Calbet et al.
  • 1AEMET, C/Leonardo Prieto Castro 8, Ciudad Universitaria, 28071 Madrid, Spain
  • 2Institute of Meteorology, Feie Universität Belin (FUB), Carl-Heinrich-Weg 6-10, 12165 Berlin, Germany
  • 3JCET, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  • 4IMSG, and NOAA/NESDIS/Center for Satellite Applications and Research, College Park, Maryland
  • 5NOAA/NESDIS/Center for Satellite Applications and Research, College Park, Maryland

Abstract. Water vapor concentration structures in the atmosphere are well approximated by Gaussian Random Fields at small scales 6 km. These Gaussian Random Fields have a spatial correlation in accordance with a structure function with a two-thirds slope, following the corresponding law from Kolmogorov's theory of turbulence. This is proven by showing that the structure function measured by several satellite instruments and radiosonde measurements do indeed follow the two-thirds law. High spatial resolution retrievals of Total Column Water Vapor (TCWV) obtained from the Ocean and Land Color Instrument (OLCI) on board of the Sentinel-3 series of satellites qualitatively also show a Gaussian Random Field structure.

As a consequence, the atmosphere has an inherently stochastic component associated to the small scale water vapor features which, in turn, can make deterministic forecasting or Nowcasting difficult. These results can be useful in areas where a high resolution modeling of water vapor is required, such as the estimation of the water vapor variance within a region or when searching for consistency between different water vapor measurements in neighboring locations.

Xavier Calbet et al.

Status: open (until 03 Aug 2022)

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Xavier Calbet et al.

Xavier Calbet et al.


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Short summary
Water vapor concentration in the atmosphere at small scales (< 6 km) is considered. The measurements show a Gaussian random field behavior following Kolmogorov's theory of turbulence two-thirds law. These properties can be useful when estimating the water vapor variability within a given observed satellite scene or when different water vapor measurements have to be merged consistently.