Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How much water is in the atmosphere?

  1. Sep 11, 2013 #1
    At any given moment do scientists have an idea of how much water is in the atmosphere? Can we compare it to how much fresh water is stored on earth as a liquid?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 11, 2013 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    According to this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_vapor
    the mean moisture content of the atmosphere is equivalent to approx. 25 mm of liquid water covering the entire surface of the globe. (See the section 'Water Vapor in Earth's Atmosphere')
  4. Sep 11, 2013 #3

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Thanks to weather satellites, yes, they do. You've seen weather satellite images that show the Earth as ocean and land, partly covered by clouds. Those are visible images of the Earth as seen from space. Looking at the Earth in infrared gives a very different picture. Several wavelengths are particularly sensitive to water vapor. For example, here's a 6.7 micron channel image:

  5. Oct 20, 2013 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html details all the forms of water on Earth

    "About 3,100 mi3 (12,900 km3) of water, mostly in the form of water vapor, is in the atmosphere at any one time. If it all fell as precipitation at once, the Earth would be covered with only about 1 inch of water."

    Edit: Dang --- did it again ---- old post
  6. Oct 22, 2013 #5
    According to the USGS Water Science School the amount of water in the atmosphere is .04 of a percent of the total of earth's fresh water and .001 percent of the amount of earth's total water. The increase in the amount of water vapor the atmosphere can hold doubles with an increase of 10 degrees (centigrade i believe).
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2013
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook