BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Study to Identify a Human "Fingerprint" Pattern in Observation of Atmospheric Water Vapor Changes
Published: October 08, 2007
Posted: November 14, 2007

The study indicates there is a decrease in water vapor levels due to cooling induced by massive volcanic eruptions, e.g. Pinatubo in 1991. The "fingerprint match" of the observed levels of water vapor is primarily due to human-caused increases in greenhouse gases, and not due to either solar forcing or volcanic forcing. The findings provide preliminary evidence of an emerging anthropogenic signal in the moisture content of Earth’s atmosphere. Water vapor feedbacks are likely to play a key role in determining the magnitude of the climate changes we experience over the next century. Data from the satellite-based Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) show that the total atmospheric moisture content over oceans has increased by 0.41 kg/m2/decade since 1988. Results from current climate models indicate that water vapor increases of this magnitude cannot be explained by climate noise alone. In a formal detection and attribution analysis using the pooled results from 22 different climate models, the simulated "fingerprint" pattern of anthropogenically-caused changes in water vapor is identifiable with high statistical confidence in the SSM/I data. Experiments have been conducted in which forcing factors such as greenhouse gas forcing, solar forcing and volcanic forcing are varied individually.

Reference: Santer, B. D. , C. Mears, F. J. Wentz, K. E. Taylor, P. J. Gleckler, T. M. L. Wigley, T. P. Barnett, J. S. Boyle, W. Brüggemann, N. P. Gillett, S. A. Klein, G. A. Meehl, T. Nozawa, D. W. Pierce, P. A. Stott, W. M. Washington, and M. F. Wehner. 2007. "Identification of Human-Induced Changes in Atmospheric Moisture Content," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 25, 2007.

Contact: Anjuli Bamzai, SC-23.3, (301) 903-0294
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Atmospheric System Research

Division: SC-33.1 Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-23.3 Climate Change Research Division, OBER)

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Jan 11, 2022
No Honor Among Copper Thieves
Findings provide a novel means to manipulate methanotrophs for a variety of environmental and in [more...]

Dec 06, 2021
New Genome Editing Tools Can Edit Within Microbial Communities
Two new technologies allow scientists to edit specific species and genes within complex laborato [more...]

Oct 27, 2021
Fungal Recyclers: Fungi Reuse Fire-Altered Organic Matter
Degrading pyrogenic (fire-affected) organic matter is an important ecosystem function of fungi i [more...]

Oct 19, 2021
Microbes Offer a Glimpse into the Future of Climate Change
Scientists identify key features in microbes that predict how warming affects carbon dioxide emi [more...]

Aug 25, 2021
Assessing the Production Cost and Carbon Footprint of a Promising Aviation Biofuel
Biomass-derived DMCO has the potential to serve as a low-carbon, high-performance jet fuel blend [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)