Water vapour is a very important meteorological element because it is a crucial link in water circulation on the globe. Air humidity is most often characterised in meteorology using the following characteristics: actual water vapour pressure, relative humidity, and saturation deficit. It should be mentioned here that, when relative humidity is used to describe the humidity conditions in the Arctic, a distinction should be made between the expression of relative humidity in terms of percentage of saturation with respect to ice, and its expression in terms of saturation with respect to water. Measurements of air humidity in low temperatures (particularly below -10°C) using both psychrometers and hair hygrometers are highly inaccurate. More details can be found in studies such as those by Koch and Wegener (1930), Loewe (1935), Sverdrup (1935), Gol'cman (1939, 1948), Ratzki (1962), and Prik (1969).
The above difficulties of humidity measurement in the Arctic mean that the quality of the obtained data is often low. Probably this is the most important reason for the small number of publications in which the air humidity in the Arctic is described. In some geographical monographs or even in climatological works this element is totally neglectcd (Prik 1960; Steffensen 1969, 1982; Bany and Hare 1974; Maxwell 1980, 1982; Sugden 1982) or is only treated very cursorily (Meteorology' of the Canadian Arctic 1944; Rae 1951; Putnins 1970; Vowinckel and Orvig 1970; Sater et al. 1971). The only studies we have which are in any way comprehensive are those which have been presented by Zavyalova (1971), Burova (1983) and Atlas Arktiki (1985) for the entire Arctic, and Pereyma (1983), and Przybylak (1992a) for Spitsbergen. On the other hand, in recent years quite a considerable number of papers analysing content, distribution, and transport of water vapour in the Arctic troposphere have been published (Drozdov et al. 1976; Burova and Gavrilova 1974; Burova 1983; Calanca 1994; Serreze et al. 1994a, b, 1995a, b; Burova and Lukyachikova 1996).
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