Observations from Earth-orbiting satellites have been a key component in monitoring climate change for the past two decades. This has become possible with the availability of air temperatures from the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) since 1979, sea surface temperatures from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) since 1982 and, most recently, measurements of atmospheric water vapour content from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) since 1987. Here we present a detailed comparison of each pair of these three time series, focusing on both interannual and decadal variations in climate. We find a strong association between sea surface temperature, lower-tropospheric air temperature and total column water-vapour content over large oceanic regions on both time scales. This lends observational support to the idea of a constant relative humidity model having a moist adiabatic lapse rate. On the decadal timescale, the combination of data sets shows a consistent warming and moistening trend of the marine atmosphere for 1987- 1998.
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