Standard Article

196 The Role of Water Vapor and Clouds in the Climate System

Part 17. Climate Change

  1. Grahame Stephens

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa206

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Stephens, G. 2006. The Role of Water Vapor and Clouds in the Climate System. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 17:196.

Author Information

  1. Colorado State University, Atmospheric Sciences, Fort Collins, CO, US

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


The exchanges of water between the different water reservoirs on Earth establishes the so-called hydrological cycle. The influence of this cycle on the energy budget of Earth is central to understanding and predicting climate change. In fact, those processes that characterize the smallest of the water reservoirs - namely the atmospheric branch of the hydrological cycle - play an especially critical role in regulating climate change through feedbacks processes. Two key feedback processes are described. The first deals with the feedback associated with the relation between water vapor, radiation and temperature and the second concerns feedbacks associated with clouds and radiation.


  • climate;
  • water vapor;
  • clouds;
  • climate feedbacks