Variability of the Arctic atmospheric moisture budget from TOVS satellite data

David G. Groves, Jennifer A. Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Scopus citations


Temporal and spatial variability of the Arctic atmospheric moisture budget is investigated using a new 19-year data set (1980 to 1998) produced from daily precipitable water retrieved from the TIROS Operational Vertical Sounder (TOVS) and upper-level winds from the NCEP-NCAR Reanalysis. A companion paper describes the creation and validation of these new moisture budget products [Groves and Francis, 2002]. Seasonal differences in moisture transport arise from distinct winter/summer circulation regimes and meridional moisture gradients. In winter, approximately 80% of the net precipitation (precipitation minus evaporation, P-E) is transported along well-defined storm tracks. Summer P-E is double that of winter and dominates the annual pattern. Decadal differences in winter P-E reveal statistically significant increases in the Beaufort and eastern Greenland-Iceland-Norwegian Seas, decreases in the Canadian Archipelago (islands in far northeast Canada) and Kara Sea, and a slight increase in the Arctic as a whole. Annual differences are dominated by winter changes. When the phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) index is positive, the net PW flux across 70°N in winter is 6 times larger than on negative-index days. Over the entire Arctic, P-E is 29% larger (20% lower) than the average on days with a positive (negative) AO index. In summer the PW transport is twice as large, and P-E is 27% higher on positive versus negative AO days. These results suggest that if the AO continues its trend toward a predominantly positive phase, we should expect to observe increasing precipitation in the Arctic overall, and particularly in regions adjacent to the marginal ice zones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)ACL 18-1-ACL 18-15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number24
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


  • 1640 Global Change: Remote sensing
  • 1836 Hydrology: Hydrologic budget (1655)
  • 1854 Hydrology: Precipitation (3354)
  • 3349 Meteorology and Atmospheric Dynamics: Polar meteorology
  • Arctic
  • Moisture transport
  • Polar meteorology
  • Precipitation
  • Satellite
  • TOVS

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