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Keywords:

  • correlation;
  • relative humidity;
  • temperature;
  • water vapor

[1] Changes in atmospheric relative humidity in concert with temperature changes in a future climate may have large consequences for the water vapor feedback, the hydrological cycle, and its interaction with weather systems. This study contributes to the basic understanding of the relationship between temperature and humidity by investigating the processes leading to synoptic-scale covariations of the two variables close to the ocean surface. Daily data from in situ observations between 10°S and 50°N and global ERA-Interim reanalyses are used. Correlations between temperature and both specific and relative humidity are calculated. The results from the two data sets appear to be greatly consistent. They show strong anticorrelation between temperature and relative humidity (RH) in the inner tropics with minimum correlation coefficients below −0.8. In midlatitudes, there are large areas where the correlation coefficient of temperature and RH is positive and greater than 0.6. The anticorrelation in the tropics is found to be related to convective precipitation, which, on the one hand, leads to local temperature decrease due to vertical mixing and reduction of solar radiation by clouds. On the other hand, rainfall is associated with an increase in boundary layer RH. Over the midlatitude ocean, daily temperature variations are mainly controlled by meridional transport, as shown with the help of backward trajectories. Moreover, advection of cold air typically goes along with vertical moisture transport, either due to large-scale subsidence or turbulent mixing, causing a reduction of near-surface RH. All together, this dynamical effect induces the positive temperature-RH correlation.