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Water vapor
St Johns Fog.jpg
Systematic name Water Vapor
Liquid State Water
Solid state Ice
Properties[1]
Melting point 0 °C
Boiling point 100 °C
specific gas constant 461.5 J/(kg·K)
heat of vaporization 2.27 MJ/kg
molecular weight 18.02 g/mol
specific heat capacity at constant pressure 1.84 kJ/(kg·K)

Water vapor or water vapour (see spelling differences), also aqueous vapor, is the gas phase of water. Water vapor is one state of water within the hydrosphere. Water vapor can be produced from the evaporation or boiling of liquid water or from the sublimation of ice. Under typical atmospheric conditions, water vapor is continuously generated by evaporation and removed by condensation. Water vapour is lighter than air and triggers convection currents that can lead to clouds. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas along with other gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

Contents

General properties of water vapor

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Evaporation/sublimation

Whenever a water molecule leaves a surface, it is said to have evaporated. Each individual water molecule which transitions between a more associated (liquid) and a less associated (vapor/gas) state does so through the absorption or release of kinetic energy. The aggregate measurement of this kinetic energy transfer is defined as thermal energy and occurs only when there is differential in the temperature of the water molecules. Liquid water that becomes water vapor takes a parcel of heat with it, in a process called evaporative cooling.[2] The amount of water vapor in the air determines how fast each molecule will return back to the surface. When a net evaporation occurs, the body of water will under go a net cooling directly related to the loss of water.

In the US, the National Weather Service measures the actual rate of evaporation from a standardized "pan" open water surface outdoors, at various locations nationwide. Others do likewise around the world. The US data is collected and compiled into an annual evaporation map.[3] The measurements range from under 30 to over 120 inches per year. Formulas can be used for calculating the rate of evaporation from a water surface such as a swimming pool.[4][5]

Evaporative cooling is restricted by atmospheric conditions. Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. The vapor content of air is measured with devices known as hygrometers. The measurements are usually expressed as specific humidity or percent relative humidity. The temperatures of the atmosphere and the water surface determine the equilibrium vapor pressure; 100% relative humidity occurs when the partial pressure of water vapor is equal to the equilibrium vapor pressure. This condition is often referred to as complete saturation. Humidity ranges from 0 gram per cubic metre in dry air to 30 grams per cubic metre (0.03 ounce per cubic foot) when the vapor is saturated at 30 °C.[6] (See also Absolute Humidity table)

Another form of evaporation is sublimation, by which water molecules become gaseous directly from ice without first becoming liquid water. Sublimation accounts for the slow mid-winter disappearance of ice and snow at temperatures too low to cause melting.

Condensation

Clouds, formed by condensed water vapor.

Water vapor will only condense onto another surface when that surface is cooler than the dew point temperature, or when the water vapor equilibrium in air has been exceeded. When water vapor condenses onto a surface, a net warming occurs on that surface. The water molecule brings heat energy with it. In turn, the temperature of the atmosphere drops slightly.[7] In the atmosphere, condensation produces clouds, fog and precipitation (usually only when facilitated by cloud condensation nuclei). The dew point of an air parcel is the temperature to which it must cool before water vapor in the air begins to condense.

Also, a net condensation of water vapor occurs on surfaces when the temperature of the surface is at or below the dew point temperature of the atmosphere. Deposition, the direct formation of ice from water vapor, is a type of condensation. Frost and snow are examples of deposition.

Mensuration

Measuring the quantity of water vapor in a medium can be done directly or remotely with varying degrees of accuracy. Remote methods such electromagnetic absorbtion are possible from satellites above planetary atmospheres. Direct methods may use electronic transducers, moistened thermometers or hygroscopic materials measuring changes in physical properties or dimensions.

medium temperature range (degC) measurement uncertainty typical measurement frequency system cost notes
sling psychrometer air -10 to 50 low to moderate hourly low
satellite based spectroscopy air -80 to 60 low very high
capacitive sensor air/gases -40 to 50 moderate 2 to 0.05 Hz medium prone to becoming satuated/contaminated over time
warmed capacitive sensor air/gases -15 to 50 moderate to low 2 to 0.05 Hz (temp dependant) medium to high prone to becoming satuated/contaminated over time
resistive sensor air/gases -10 to 50 moderate 60 seconds medium prone to contamination
lithium chloride dewcell air -30 to 50 moderate continuous medium see dewcell
Cobalt(II) chloride air/gases 0 to 50 high 5 minutes very low often used in Humidity indicator card
Absorption spectroscopy air/gases moderate high
Aluminum oxide air/gases moderate medium see Moisture analysis
silicon oxide air/gases moderate medium see Moisture analysis
Piezoelectric sorption air/gases moderate medium see Moisture analysis
Electrolytic air/gases moderate medium see Moisture analysis
hair tension air 0 to 40 high continuous low to medium Affected by temperature. Adversely affected by prolonged high concentrations
Nephelometer air/other gases low very high
Goldbeater's skin (cow Peritoneum) air -20 to 30 moderate (with corrections) slow, slower at lower temperatures low ref:WMO Guide to Meteorological Instruments and Methods of Observation #8 2006, (pages 1.12-1)
Lyman-alpha high frequency high http://amsglossary.allenpress.com/glossary/search?id=lyman-alpha-hygrometer1 Requires frequent calibration
Gravimetric Hygrometer very low very high often called primary source, national independent standards developed in US,UK,EU & Japan
medium temperature range (degC) measurement uncertainty typical measurement frequency system cost notes

Water vapor density

Water vapor is lighter or less dense than dry air. At equivalent temperatures it is buoyant with respect to dry air.

Water vapor and dry air density calculations at 0°C

Dewpoint.jpg

The molecular mass of water is 18.02 g/mol, as calculated from the sum of the atomic masses of its constituent atoms.

The average molecular mass of air (approx. 79% nitrogen, N2; 21% oxygen, O2) is 28.57 g/mol at standard temperature and pressure (STP).

Using Avogadro's Law and the ideal gas law, water vapor and air will have a molar volume of 22.414 litre/mol at STP. A molar mass of air and water vapor occupy the same volume of 22.414 litres. The density (mass/volume) of water vapor is 0.804 g/litre, which is significantly less than that of dry air at 1.27 g/liter at STP.

STP conditions imply a temperature of 0 °C, at which the ability of water to become vapor is very restricted. Its concentration in air is very low at 0 °C. The red line on the chart to the right is the maximum concentration of water vapor expected for a given temperature. The water vapor concentration increases significantly as the temperature rises, approaching 100% (steam, pure water vapor) at 100 °C. However the difference in densities between air and water vapor would still exist.

Air and water vapor density interactions at equal temperatures

At the same temperature, a column of dry air will be denser or heavier than a column of air containing any water vapor. Thus, any volume of dry air will sink if placed in a larger volume of moist air. Also, a volume of moist air will rise or be buoyant if placed in a larger region of dry air. As the temperature rises the proportion water vapor in the air increases, its buoyancy will become larger. This increase in buoyancy can have a significant atmospheric impact, giving rise to powerful, moisture rich, upward air currents when the air temperature and sea temperature reaches 25 °C or above. This phenomenon provides a significant motivating force for cyclonic and anticyclonic weather systems (tornadoes and hurricanes).

Water vapor and respiration or breathing

Water vapor's contribution to the pressure increases as its concentration increases. Its partial pressure contribution to air pressure increases, lowering the partial pressure contribution of the other atmospheric gases (Dalton's Law). The total air pressure must remain constant. The presence of water vapor in the air naturally dilutes or displaces the other air components as its concentration increases.

This can have an effect on respiration, in very warm air (35°C). The proportion of water vapor is large enough to give rise to the stuffiness that can be experienced in humid jungle conditions or in poorly ventilated buildings.

General discussion

The amount of water vapor in an atmosphere is constrained by the restrictions of partial pressures and temperature. Dew point temperature and relative humidity act as guidelines for the process of water vapor in the water cycle. Energy input, such as sunlight, can trigger more evaporation on an ocean surface or more sublimation on a chunk of ice on top of a mountain. The balance between condensation and evaporation gives the quantity called vapor partial pressure.

The maximum partial pressure (saturation pressure) of water vapor in air varies with temperature of the air and water vapor mixture. A variety of empirical formulas exist for this quantity; the most used reference formula is the Goff-Gratch equation for the SVP over liquid water below zero degree Celsius:

\log_{10} \left( p \right)= -7.90298 \left( \frac{373.16}{T}-1 \right) + 5.02808 \log_{10} \frac{373.16}{T}
- 1.3816 \times 10^{-7} \left( 10^{11.344 \left( 1-\frac{T}{373.16} \right)} -1 \right)
+ 8.1328 \times 10^{-3} \left( 10^{-3.49149 \left( \frac{373.16}{T}-1 \right)} -1 \right)
+ \log_{10} \left( 1013.246 \right)
Where T, temperature of the moist air, is given in units of kelvins, and p is given in units of millibars (hectopascals).

The formula is valid from about −50 to 102 °C; however there are a very limited number of measurements of the vapor pressure of water over supercooled liquid water. There are a number of other formulae which can be used[8].

Under certain conditions, such as when the boiling temperature of water is reached, a net evaporation will always occur during standard atmospheric conditions regardless of the percent of relative humidity. This immediate process will dispel massive amounts of water vapor into a cooler atmosphere.

Exhaled air is almost fully at equilibrium with water vapor at the body temperature. In the cold air the exhaled vapor quickly condenses, thus showing up as a fog or mist of water droplets and as condensation or frost on surfaces.

Controlling water vapor in air is a key concern in the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) industry. Thermal comfort depends on the moist air conditions. Non-human comfort situations are called refrigeration, and also are affected by water vapor. For example many food stores, like supermarkets, utilize open chiller cabinets, or food cases, which can significantly lower the water vapor pressure (lowering humidity). This practice delivers several benefits as well as problems.

Water vapor in Earth's atmosphere

Gaseous water represents a small but environmentally significant constituent of the atmosphere. Approximately 99.13% of it is contained in the troposphere. The condensation of water vapor to the liquid or ice phase is responsible for clouds, rain, snow, and other precipitation, all of which count among the most significant elements of what we experience as weather. Less obviously, the latent heat of vaporization, which is released to the atmosphere whenever condensation occurs, is one of the most important terms in the atmospheric energy budget on both local and global scales. For example, latent heat release in atmospheric convection is directly responsible for powering destructive storms such as tropical cyclones and severe thunderstorms. Water vapor is also the most potent greenhouse gas owing to the presence of the hydroxyl bond which absorbs strongly in the infra-red region of the light spectrum. Because the water vapor content of the atmosphere will increase in response to warmer temperatures, there is a water vapor feedback is expected to amplify the climate warming effect due to increased carbon dioxide alone. It is less clear how cloudiness would respond to a warming climate; depending on the nature of the response, clouds could either further amplify or partly mitigate warming from long-lived greenhouse gases.

Fog and clouds form through condensation around cloud condensation nuclei. In the absence of nuclei, condensation will only occur at much lower temperatures. Under persistent condensation or deposition, cloud droplets or snowflakes form, which precipitate when they reach a critical mass.

Increasing stratospheric water vapor at Boulder, Colorado.

The average residence time of water molecules in the troposphere is about 10 days. Water depleted by precipitation is replenished by evaporation from the seas, lakes, rivers and the transpiration of plants, and other biological and geological processes.

Atmospheric water vapor content is expressed using various measures. These include vapor pressure, specific humidity, mixing ratio, dew point temperature, and relative humidity. The annual mean global concentration of water vapor would yield about 25 mm of liquid water over the entire surface of the Earth if it were to instantly fall as rain. The mean annual precipitation for the planet is about 1 meter, which indicates a rapid turnover of water in the air - on average, the residence time of a water vapor molecule in the atmosphere is about 9 to 10 days.

The abundance of gases emitted by volcanoes varies considerably from volcano to volcano. However, water vapor is consistently the most common volcanic gas, normally comprising more than 60% of total emissions during a subaerial eruption.[9]

Radar and satellite imaging

MODIS/Terra global mean atmospheric water vapor

Because water molecules absorb microwaves and other radio wave frequencies, water in the atmosphere attenuates radar signals.[10] In addition, atmospheric water will reflect and refract signals to an extent that depends on whether it is vapor, liquid or solid.

Generally, radar signals lose strength progressively the farther they travel through the troposphere. Different frequencies attenuate at different rates, such that some components of air are opaque to some frequencies and transparent to others. Radio waves used for broadcasting and other communication experience the same effect.

Water vapor reflects radar to a lesser extent than do water's other two phases. In the form of drops and ice crystals, water acts as a prism, which it does not do as an individual molecule; however, the existence of water vapor in the atmosphere causes the atmosphere to act as a giant prism.[11]

A comparison of GOES-12 satellite images shows the distribution of atmospheric water vapor relative to the oceans, clouds and continents of the Earth. Vapor surrounds the planet but is unevenly distributed.

Lightning generation

Water vapor plays a key role in lightning production in the atmosphere. From cloud physics, usually, clouds are the real generators of static charge as found in Earth's atmosphere. But the ability, or capability of clouds to hold massive amounts of electrical energy is directly related to the amount of water vapor present in the local system.

The amount of water vapor directly controls the permittivity of the air. During times of low humidity, static discharge is quick and easy. During times of higher humidity, fewer static discharges occur. However, permittivity and capacitance work hand in hand to produce the megawatt outputs of lightning.[12]

After a cloud, for instance, has started its way to becoming a lightning generator, atmospheric water vapor acts as a substance (or insulator that decreases the ability of the cloud to discharge its electrical energy. Over a certain amount of time, if the cloud continues to generate and store more static electricity, the barrier that was created by the atmospheric water vapor will ultimately break down from the stored electrical potential energy.[13][14] This energy will be released to a locally, oppositely charged region in the form of lightning. The strength of each discharge is directly related to the atmospheric permittivity, capacitance, and the source's charge generating ability.[15]

See also, Van de Graaff generator.

Extraterrestrial water vapor

The brilliance of comet tails comes largely from water vapor. On approach to the sun, the ice many comets carry sublimates to vapor, which reflects light from the sun. Knowing a comet's distance from the sun, astronomers may deduce a comet's water content from its brilliance.[16] Bright tails in cold and distant comets suggests carbon monoxide sublimation.

Scientists studying Mars hypothesize that if water moves about the planet, it does so as vapor.[17] Most of the water on Mars appears to exist as ice at the northern pole. During Mars' summer, this ice sublimates, perhaps enabling massive seasonal storms to convey significant amounts of water toward the equator.[18]

A star called CW Leonis was found to have a ring of vast quantities of water vapor circling the aging, massive star. A NASA satellite designed to study chemicals in interstellar gas clouds, made the discovery with an onboard spectrometer. Most likely, "the water vapor was vaporized from the surfaces of orbiting comets."[19]

Spectroscopic analysis of HD 209458 b, an extrasolar planet in the constellation Pegasus, provides the first evidence of atmospheric water vapor beyond the Solar System.

See also

References

  1. ^ Lide, David. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 73rd ed. 1992, CRC Press.
  2. ^ Schroeder, David. Thermal Physics. 2000, Addison Wesley Longman. p36
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ [4]
  7. ^ Schroeder, p19.
  8. ^ [5]
  9. ^ Sigurdsson, H. et al., (2000) Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, San Diego, Academic Press
  10. ^ Skolnik, Merrill. Radar Handbook, 2nd ed. 1990, McGraw-Hill, Inc. p23.5
  11. ^ Skolnik, pp2.44-2.54.
  12. ^ Shadowitz, Albert. The Electromagnetic Field. 1975, McGraw-Hill Book Company. pp165-171.
  13. ^ Shadowitz, pp172-173, 182.
  14. ^ Shadowitz, pp414-416.
  15. ^ Shadowitz, p172.
  16. ^ ANATOMY OF COMETS, Retrieved December 2006.
  17. ^ Jakosky, Bruce, et al. "Water on Mars", April 2004, Physics Today, p71.
  18. ^ "Europe probe detects Mars water ice", January 23, 2004, Cnn.com, retrieved August 2005.
  19. ^ Lloyd, Robin. "Water Vapor, Possible Comets, Found Orbiting Star", 11 July 2001, Space.com. Retrieved December 15, 2006.

External links


Simple English

Water vapor is water that is in the form of a vapor, or gas. It is a part of the water cycle. When liquid water is heated to boiling temperature, 100 degrees Celsius, it all turns into vapor. Water vapor can also be produced directly from ice; this is called sublimation. Steam is water vapor, but clouds are liquid water. Water vapor affects weather conditions.

Water vapor weighs less than air, which is part of the reason clouds float high in the sky.

Water vapor is transparent. The small droplets that look white like mist are actually liquid.


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