Geophysical Research Letters

Height-resolved variability of midlatitude tropospheric water vapor measured by an airborne lidar



[1] Free tropospheric water vapor variability, measured by airborne lidar over Europe during summertime, is analyzed at altitudes from 2 km to 10 km. Horizontal structure functions of specific humidity were computed and show power-law scaling between about 10 km to 100 km in range. The second-order structure function shows scaling exponents equivalent to spectral slopes that vary from around 5/3 in the lower troposphere to 2 at upper levels. More specifically humidity smoothness typically increases with height, while intermittency decreases. A classification of the data according to whether the series occurred above or below the level of nearby convective cloud tops gives a separation of the scaling exponents in the two air masses. The results are consistent with a water vapor distribution determined at upper levels by a downscale cascade of variance by advective mixing, but increasingly influenced at lower levels by local injection of humidity by moist convection.