The amplitude, the temperature dependence, and the physical origin of the water vapour absorption continuum are a long-standing issue in molecular spectroscopy with direct impact in atmospheric and planetary sciences. In recent years, we have determined the self-continuum absorption of water vapour at different spectral points of the atmospheric windows at 4.0, 2.1, 1.6, and 1.25µm, by highly sensitive cavity-enhanced laser techniques. These accurate experimental constraints have been used to adjust the last version (3.2) of the semi-empirical MT_CKD model (Mlawer-Tobin_Clough-Kneizys-Davies), which is widely incorporated in atmospheric radiative-transfer codes. In the present work, the self-continuum cross-sections, CS, are newly determined at 3.3µm (3007cm−1) and 2.0µm (5000cm−1) by optical-feedback-cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy (OFCEAS) and cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS), respectively. These new data allow extending the spectral coverage of the 4.0 and 2.1µm windows, respectively, and testing the recently released 3.2 version of the MT_CKD continuum. By considering high temperature literature data together with our data, the temperature dependence of the self-continuum is also obtained.
n most near‐infrared atmospheric windows, absorption of solar radiation is dominated by the water vapor self‐continuum, and yet there is a paucity of measurements in these windows. We report new laboratory measurements of the self‐continuum absorption at temperatures between 293 and 472 K and pressures from 0.015 to 5 atm in four near‐infrared windows between 1 and 4 μm (10000–2500 cm−1); the measurements are made over a wider range of wavenumbers, temperatures, and pressures than any previous measurements. They show that the self‐continuum in these windows is typically one order of magnitude stronger than given in representations of the continuum widely used in climate and weather prediction models. These results are also not consistent with current theories attributing the self‐continuum within windows to the far wings of strong spectral lines in the nearby water vapor absorption bands; we suggest that they are more consistent with water dimers being the major contributor to the continuum. The calculated global average clear‐sky atmospheric absorption of solar radiation is increased by ∼0.75 W/m2 (which is about 1% of the total clear‐sky absorption) by using these new measurements as compared to calculations with the MT_CKD‐2.5 self‐continuum model.
The gaseous absorption of solar radiation within near-infrared atmospheric windows in the Earth's atmosphere is dominated by the water vapour continuum. Recent measurements by Baranov et al. (2011)  in 2500 cm−1 (4 μm) window and by Ptashnik et al. (2011)  in a few near-infrared windows revealed that the self-continuum absorption is typically an order of magnitude stronger than given by the MT_CKD continuum model prior to version 2.5. Most of these measurements, however, were made at elevated temperatures, which makes their application to atmospheric conditions difficult. Here we report new laboratory measurements of the self-continuum absorption at 289 and 318 K in the near-infrared spectral region 1300–8000 cm−1, using a multipass 30 m base cell with total optical path 612 m. Our results confirm the main conclusions of the previous measurements both within bands and in windows. Of particular note is that we present what we believe to be the first near-room temperature measurement using Fourier Transform Spectrometry of the self-continuum in the 6200 cm−1 (1.6 μm) window, which provides tentative evidence that, at such temperatures, the water vapour continuum absorption may be as strong as it is in 2.1 μm and 4 μm windows and up to 2 orders of magnitude stronger than the MT_CKD-2.5 continuum. We note that alternative methods of measuring the continuum in this window have yielded widely differing assessment of its strength, which emphasises the need for further measurements.
The near-infrared water vapor absorption is measured in the 2000-8000 cm−1 spectral region. Spectra were recorded using an IFS 125 HR Fourier spectrometer at a temperature of 287 K and a spectral resolution of 0.03 cm−1. The water vapor continuum absorption spectrum is retrieved using the known absorption in the 2500 cm−1 region as a reference point. It is shown that the continuum absorptions in four windows differ by no more than 20% under investigation conditions. This contradicts the MT_CKD continuum model, which predicts a much stronger variability of the continuum in these windows.