A Microphysical Connection Among Biomass Burning, Cumulus Clouds, and Stratospheric Moisture

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Science  15 Feb 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5558, pp. 1272-1275
DOI: 10.1126/science.1065080

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A likely causal chain is established here that connects humidity in the stratosphere, relative humidity near the tropical tropopause, ice crystal size in towering cumulus clouds, and aerosols associated with tropical biomass burning. The connections are revealed in satellite-observed fluctuations of each quantity on monthly to yearly time scales. More aerosols lead to smaller ice crystals and more water vapor entering the stratosphere. The connections are consistent with physical reasoning, probably hold on longer time scales, and may help to explain why stratospheric water vapor appears to have been increasing for the past five decades.

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