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What is Absolute Humidity?

Before we discuss “What is Absolute Humidity?”, let's learn about water vapour and Humidity. Water vapour is a highly variable element of the atmosphere that plays an important role in the hydrologic cycle. High rates of evaporation of water from the earth's surface keeps the lower atmosphere almost constantly saturated in wet, humid tropical rain forests. In dry, hot deserts, there is typically no water to evaporate, and the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere is almost non-existent. Water vapour in the atmosphere is described by several parameters, including vapour pressure, relative humidity, dew point temperature, water vapour density, and Absolute Humidity. The most familiar is possibly relative humidity.

Humidity

The Earth's atmosphere is made up of gases kept together by gravity. It protects the Earth and all living things from the sun's rays. It is made up of different layers with various pressure, thickness, density, and mass. Changes in the atmosphere can cause variations in the atmosphere's conditions, which can have a significant impact on the Earth and its inhabitants. Humidity is one of the factors that can affect these changes in the air.


The concentration of water vapour in the air is referred to as humidity. Water vapour, or water in its gaseous state, is normally transparent to the naked eye. Humidity suggests the possibility of snow, dew, or fog. Humidity is affected by the temperature and pressure of the device under consideration. Cold air has more humidity than warm air because it contains the same amount of water vapour. The dew point is a related parameter. When the temperature rises, the amount of water vapour needed to achieve saturation rises as well. As a parcel of air's temperature falls, it will gradually achieve saturation without adding or losing water mass. The amount of water vapour within a parcel of air can vary significantly. 

Humidity is commonly measured using three methods: absolute, relative, and specific.

Absolute Humidity Definition

Let’s define absolute humidity, it is the mass of water vapour divided by the mass of dry air in a certain volume of air at a specific temperature. The warmer the air is, the more water it can absorb. Absolute humidity is the measure of water vapour or moisture in the air, regardless of temperature. It is expressed as grams of moisture per cubic meter of air (g/m3).

Absolute and Relative Humidity

The water vapour (in grams) present in 1 m3 of air is weighed to determine absolute humidity. This isn't a very useful parameter in meteorology, even then, it's more important to know how much water can be obtained in the form of rain from a given volume of air. Another metric, relative humidity, is used for this. Air may contain a fixed amount of water vapour at a given temperature and pressure, if this amount is reached, the air becomes saturated with vapour, and any slight change in pressure or temperature, or any addition of vapour, causes the air to become oversaturated, the excess water vapour condenses as small drops of liquid water. The temperature at which condensation occurs for a given amount of water vapour present in the air at a given pressure is known as condensation temperature or dew point temperature. The percentage ratio between the amount of water vapour present in the air and the amount of vapour needed to make the air saturated with moisture at the same temperature is known as relative humidity.  Relative humidity of 100% means that the air is saturated with vapour and on the verge of condensing the water vapour into drops of water, from a meteorological perspective, this is a state that is theoretically conducive to precipitation. Low relative humidity, on the other hand, means dry air that is not conducive to precipitation.

Specific Humidity

The ratio of the mass of water vapour to the total mass of the air parcel is known as specific humidity (or moisture content). The mixing ratio, which is defined as the ratio of the mass of water vapour in an air parcel to the mass of dry air in the same parcel, is roughly equal to specific humidity. As the temperature drops, so does the amount of water vapour needed to reach saturation. As the temperature of a parcel of airdrops below a certain level, it will gradually reach saturation without adding or losing water mass.

How to Measure Absolute Humidity

The density of water vapour in the air (kg/m3) is known as absolute humidity. To measure absolute humidity, first, calculate vapour pressure in millibars using the dewpoint temperature and formula number. Then multiply the vapour pressure in millibars by 100 to get Pa. Once you have the vapour pressure in Pa, you can use the gas law to measure water vapour density (i.e. absolute humidity) by substituting Rw for R in the gas law formula and using the vapour pressure instead of the total atmospheric pressure used to calculate air density.

Air Density and Volume

Humidity is determined by water vaporization and condensation, all of which are primarily influenced by temperature. As a result, when more pressure is applied to a gas saturated with water, the volume of all components decreases at first, roughly in accordance with the ideal gas law. However, some of the water can condense until it reaches nearly the same humidity as before, resulting in a total volume that differs from that expected by the ideal gas law. Conversely, as the temperature drops, some water condenses, causing the final volume to deviate from what the ideal gas law predicts. As a result, gas volume can also be expressed as dry volume, which excludes the humidity content. This fraction adheres to the ideal gas law more closely. The saturated number, on the other hand, is the volume that a gas mixture would have if the humidity was applied before it reached saturation (or 100 percent relative humidity).


The number of molecules present in a given volume of any gas is constant at a given temperature and pressure (see ideal gas law). So, if the temperature and pressure remain constant, as water molecules (vapour) are added into the volume of dry air, the number of air molecules in the volume must decrease by the same number.  (Adding water molecules to a gas without removing an equivalent number of other molecules would inevitably result in a shift in temperature, pressure, or total volume; that is, a change in at least one of these three parameters.) If the temperature and pressure remain constant, the volume increases, and the displaced dry air molecules move out into the extra volume at first, until the mixture gradually becomes uniform by diffusion.)

Global Climate

Humidity has two main effects on the energy budget and, as a result, on temperature. Water vapour in the atmosphere, for example, contains "latent" energy. This latent heat is absorbed from the surface liquid during transpiration or evaporation, cooling the earth's surface. At the surface, this is the largest non-radiative cooling effect. It accounts for around 70% of the average net radiative warming at the surface.


Second, of all greenhouse gases, water vapour is the most concentrated. Water vapour is a "selective absorber," similar to a green lens that allows green light to pass through but absorbs red light. Water vapour, like other greenhouse gases, is invisible to most solar radiation, as can be seen. However, it absorbs the infrared radiation released (radiated) upward by the earth's surface, which is why humid areas have no nocturnal cooling while desert regions cool significantly. The greenhouse effect is caused by this selective absorption. It increases the surface temperature well above its potential radiative equilibrium temperature with the sun, and water vapour is the primary cause of this warming.


Water, unlike most other greenhouse gases, is not only below its boiling point anywhere on the planet but also below its freezing point at certain altitudes. It precipitates as a condensable greenhouse gas, with a far lower scale height and a far shorter atmospheric lifetime — weeks rather than decades. The Earth's blackbody temperature, which is below the freezing point of water, would allow water vapour to be removed from the atmosphere if no other greenhouse gases were present.

Conclusion

Water vapour is a highly variable element of the Earth's atmosphere. It plays an important role in the hydrologic cycle. Humidity suggests the possibility of snow, dew, or fog. Cold air has more humidity than warm air because it contains the same amount of water vapour. Absolute and relative humidity. The water vapour (in grams) present in 1 m3 of air is weighed to determine absolute humidity. Relative humidity of 100% means that the air is saturated with vapour. This is theoretically conducive to precipitation. Low relative humidity, on the other hand, means dry air that is not conducive to rain.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Absolute Humidity of Air?

Ans: Absolute Humidity Definition is, it is the mass of water vapour divided by the mass of dry air in a certain volume of air at a specific temperature. The warmer the air is, the more water it can absorb. Absolute humidity is the measure of water vapour or moisture in the air, regardless of temperature. It's expressed as grams of moisture per cubic meter of air (g/m3).

2. What's the difference between Humidity and Relative Humidity?

Ans: Humidity may be measured in absolute or relative terms. The amount of water vapour in a unit volume of air, expressed in kilogrammes per cubic metre, is known as absolute humidity. It is unaffected by the temperature of the surrounding air. When the level of water vapour in the air is high, the absolute humidity is also high. The percentage or ratio of the amount of water vapour in a volume of air at a given temperature to the amount that it will maintain at that temperature is known as relative humidity. 

3. Why Is It More Humid at Night?

Ans: During the day, the sun warms it up, and the warm air absorbs moisture from the grass, the earth, and any bodies of water readily. If the weather warms up, the humidity will drop. Even if the humidity remains constant, the amount of moisture in the air will increase. When things cool down at night, the cooling air can/will hit the saturation point. The humidity level is now likely to be close to 100%. If it reaches 100% and attempts to go higher, fog will form. This effect is also responsible for rain and snow.

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