Scientists need better tools to measure water vapor


  • Michael Carlowicz


More than any other greenhouse gas, water vapor controls the thermostat of Earth. Yet we still have a lot to learn about this simple molecule that plays a diverse and dynamic role, according to a special report released in December by AGU.

Our ability to measure water vapor in the atmosphere is inadequate, noted Dian Gaffen, a convener of the October 1994 Chapman Conference on water vapor and a meteorologist at the Air Resources Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Gaffen presented the special report, entitled “Water Vapor in the Climate System,” on December 14 at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco. The 15-page report distills the presentations and discussions witnessed at the Chapman Conference down to a synopsis that can be read by teachers, students, and policymakers.