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Fundamental Physics I by Dr. Abhijit kar Gupta (email: kg.abhi@gmail.

com) 1

Atmosphere and Water Vapour

Earth's atmosphere consists of layers of gases surrounding our planet Earth and retained
by the Earth's gravity. It contains approximately (by volume) 78% nitrogen, 20.95%
oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.038% carbon dioxide, traces of other gases, and a variable
amount (1 - 3%) of water vapour. This mixture of gases is commonly known as air.

The atmosphere plays an important role in protecting life on earth by absorbing harmful
ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. Also, the extreme temperatures during day and night
time are controlled by the presence of atmosphere.

Water Vapour in Atmosphere

Water vapour is the gas phase of water. Water vapour is produced from the vaporization
(evaporation or boiling) or from the sublimation of ice. Under normal atmospheric
conditions, water vapour is continuously evaporating and condensing.

The volume of water vapour in atmosphere, on average, is about 1 to 3%. Therefore,


normally, only about 1 to 3% of the molecules in the air are water vapour molecules. The
volume of water vapour is about 4% in very warm and humid air in tropical countries
(like in India). Even in tropical air, once the volume of water vapour in the atmosphere
approaches 4% it will begin to condense out of the air. The condensation of water vapour
prevents the percentage of water vapour in the air from further increasing. However, it is
possible to have greater percentages of water vapour in the air at higher temperatures.

The amount of water vapour in the air is very low in extremely arid areas and at places
where the temperatures are very low. Temperature determines the maximum amount of
water vapour that can exist in the air.

Vapour Pressure:

Vapour exerts pressure on the surface of liquid or solid from which it is created. Water
vapour exerts a pressure on the water surface.

If we take some liquid in a closed vessel, a part of the liquid will vaporize and the rest
will remain unchanged for an unlimited time. But the process of vaporization does not
really stop. Molecules continue leaving the surface of the liquid and at the same time
condensation process takes place (condensation of vapour into liquid). In the closed
vessel, eventually, the rate of vaporization and the rate of condensation become equal and
a dynamic equilibrium is established. Thus, beginning with this instant, the amount of
liquid remains unchanged in the closed vessel. The vapour is now said to be saturated.
Fundamental Physics I by Dr. Abhijit kar Gupta (email: kg.abhi@gmail.com) 2

Saturated Vapour Pressure__________


The pressure of vapour in equilibrium with liquid or solid at any temperature is called the
saturated vapour pressure of that substance at that temperature.

• The saturated vapour pressure of a liquid depends only on its chemical


composition and temperature.
• In general, the higher the temperature, the higher the vapour pressure.

Dew Point_________
The temperature at which the saturation vapour pressure is achieved in the air, it is said to
be the dew point. Any increase of water vapour content or decrease in temperature at this
point causes the condensation of water vapour.

Unsaturated vapour Pressure_________


If in a situation, the rate of vaporization becomes less than the rate of condensation of
vapour, the vapour is said to be unsaturated. The pressure due to unsaturated vapour is
called unsaturated vapour pressure.
This is possible when the liquid surface is open as the evaporation in nature occurs from
the surface of sea water and from the lakes and rivers etc.

Humidity

The term that is used to describe the amount of water vapour in air is called humidity.
The content of water vapour in air or humidity can be calculated in various ways.

Absolute Humidity (AH):

When the humidity is measured by the mass of water vapour in a certain volume of air or
by the pressure that the water vapour exerts, it is called absolute humidity.
Normally, it is measured in gm/m 3 (grams per cubic meter). For example, air at 10 0 C
contains 9.4 gm/m3 of water vapour when saturated. Note the use of mixed unit rather
than having C.G.S. (gm/cm 3 ) or S.I. (kg/ m 3 ) units. This has been a practice since the
density of air is very low.

If all the water in one cubic meter of air could be condensed into a container, the
container could be weighed to determine absolute humidity. If the mass of water vapour
is m w gm and the volume of air is Va cubic meter, we can write

mw
AH = gm/m 3 .
Va
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The absolute humidity changes as the air pressure changes. This is because the volume of
air depends on the pressure. This definition is usually not considered in case of weather
forecasting.

Specific Humidity (SH):

Specific humidity is defined as the ratio of the mass of water vapour in the air to the total
mass of the air in a particular volume of the air.
If the mass of a certain volume of air is ma and the mass of water vapour in that air is
m w , we can write
mw
SH = .
ma

Relative Humidity (RH):

Air is a mixture of several gases and water vapour.

Relative humidity of air is defined as the ratio of the partial pressure of water vapour in
air to the saturated vapour pressure of water at a given temperature.

Relative humidity is expressed as a percentage and is calculated as follows:

Ppart
RH = × 100 %
Psat

Where Ppart = the partial pressure of water vapour in the gas mixture,
Psat = the saturated vapour pressure.

In simple terms, the definition of relative humidity is the percentage of the ratio of the observed
vapour pressure to that required for saturation at the same temperature and pressure.

When the unsaturated air is cooled, the relative humidity increases. Eventually it reaches
a temperature when the relative humidity reaches 100%. The air is then called saturated.
It is said that the dew point is reached. Further cooling leads to condensation of excess
water vapour. The condensed moisture is called dew. This occurs frequently at night
when the earth’s atmosphere is cooled by radiation.
As the amount of water vapour does not change, the pressure due to water vapour at any
temperature is equal to the saturated water vapour (in the same air) at dew point.

The definition of relative humidity can be rewritten as follows:


Fundamental Physics I by Dr. Abhijit kar Gupta (email: kg.abhi@gmail.com) 4

Pdew
RH = × 100 %
Psat
Where Pdew = the saturated vapour pressure at the dew point.

When the air temperature is increased, the relative humidity decreases. This is because
the amount of water vapour in air is now less than that could be present at this
temperature.

Example:
If the amount of water vapour is 20 gm in every 1 kg of air at a certain place at 30 0 C
whereas one kg of that air would be saturated with 25 gm of water vapour, the relative
humidity of air would be 20 / 25 = 80% at 30 0 C .

Note:
• The dew point has no fixed value. When air is cooled, the mass of water vapour in
it remains unchanged. So the pressure due to water vapour does not change when
the air is cooled. Eventually dew point is reached and the dew point (the
temperature) depends on the content of water vapour in air. The dew point varies
from place to place as the moisture content varies from place to place. Also, the
dew point at a same location may widely vary depending on the supply of water
vapour.

• The relative humidity shows the degree of saturation but it gives no idea of the actual
amount of water vapour in the air.

The important points to remember:


The relative humidity depends on two factors: (i) the amount of water vapour (moisture)
and (ii) the temperature.
As long as the moisture content in the air remains unchanged,

• Reduce the temperature, the relative humidity (RH) goes up.


• Increase the temperature, the relative humidity (RH) goes down.

Measurement of Humidity:

The branch of physics which deals with the determination of humidity of the atmosphere is called
hygrometry. The device that is used to measure the humidity of air is called hygrometer.

Working principle of a hygrometer:


A hygrometer consists of two thermometers, one dry bulb or standard air temperature
thermometer, and one wet bulb thermometer. The wet bulb thermometer is an ordinary
Fundamental Physics I by Dr. Abhijit kar Gupta (email: kg.abhi@gmail.com) 5

thermometer which has the bulb covered with a muslin bag, kept moist via an absorbent
wick dipped into water. Evaporation of water from the muslin lowers the temperature of
the thermometer. The difference between wet and dry bulb temperatures is used to
calculate the various measures of humidity.

Include a Figure like this (may not be this one)

Problems with Solutions

Example 1: The temperature and dew point of air are 16 0 C and 7.6 0 C , respectively. If
the atmospheric pressure is 13.5 mm Hg at 16 0 C and 7.8 mm Hg at 7.6 0 C , find the
relative humidity of air. [H.S. ‘92]
Solution:
Here the saturated vapour pressure at dew point i.e. at 7.6 0 C is Pdew = 7.8 mm Hg and
the saturated vapour pressure at 16 0 C is Psat = 13.5 mm Hg.
Pdew 7.8
∴ The relative humidity = × 100 % = × 100 % = 57.8%.
Psat 13.5

Example 2: The room temperature and the dew point on a certain day are 18.5 0 C and
12 0 C , respectively. The saturated vapour pressure at 18 0 C , 19 0 C and 12 0 C are 15.46
mm, 15.86 mm and 10.46 mm, respectively. What is the relative humidity on that day?
[H.S. ‘96]
Solution:
To find the relative humidity of air on that day we need to know the saturated vapour
pressure on that day at 18.5 0 C and the saturated vapour pressure at dew point (12 0 C ).
Fundamental Physics I by Dr. Abhijit kar Gupta (email: kg.abhi@gmail.com) 6

The saturated vapour pressure at dew point at 12 0 C , Pdew = 10.46 mm.


The saturated vapour pressure at 18 0 C and 19 0 C are 15.46 mm and 15.86 mm,
respectively.
∴The rate of increase of saturated vapour pressure in this temperature range =
(15.86 − 15.46) = 0.4 mm/ 0 C .
∴ The saturated vapour pressure at room temperature at 18.5 0 C ,
Psat = the saturated vapour pressure at 18 0 C + the increment of pressure due to 0.5 0 C
increase in temperature = 15.46 + 0.5 × 0.4 = 15.66 mm.
P 10.46
∴ The relative humidity = dew × 100 % = × 100 = 66.8%.
Psat 15.66

Example 3: The temperature of air is 26.6 0 C and the dew point is 9.5 0 C on a certain
day. The maximum pressures due to water vapour at temperatures, 9 0 C , 10 0 C , 26 0 C
and 27 0 C are 8.6 mm, 9.2 mm, 25.2 mm, and 26.7 mm, respectively. Determine the
relative humidity of air on that day. [H.S. ‘89]
Solution:
To find the relative humidity of air on that day we need to know the saturated vapour
pressure at dew point (9.5 0 C ) and the saturated vapour pressure at the temperature of
that day (26.6 0 C ).
It is given, the saturated vapour pressure at 9 0 C = 8.6 mm and the saturated vapour
pressure at 10 0 C = 9.2 mm.
∴The rate of increase of saturated vapour pressure in this temperature range = (9.2 − 8.6)
= 0.6 mm/ 0 C .
∴ The saturated vapour pressure at the dew point at 9.5 0 C ,
Pdew = the saturated vapour pressure at 9 0 C + the increment of pressure due to 0.5 0 C
increase in temperature = 8.6 + 0.5 × 0.6 = 8.9 mm.

The saturated vapour pressure at 26 0 C = 25.2 mm and the saturated vapor pressure at
27 0 C = 26.7 mm.
∴ The rate of increase of saturated vapour pressure in this temperature range =
(26.7 − 25.2) = 1.5 mm/ 0 C .
∴The saturated vapour pressure at 26.6 0 C ,
Psat = the saturated vapour pressure at 26 0 C + the increment of pressure due to 0.6 0 C
increase in temperature = 25.2 + 0.6 × 1.5 = 26.1 mm.
P 8.9
∴The relative humidity = dew × 100 % = × 100% = 34.1%.
Psat 26.1
Fundamental Physics I by Dr. Abhijit kar Gupta (email: kg.abhi@gmail.com) 7

Example 4: What is the dew point when the relative humidity of air at 20 0 C is 52%?
The saturated vapour pressures at 20 0 C , 10 0 C and 9 0 C are 17.5, 9.2 and 8.6 mm Hg.
[J.E.E. ‘86]
Solution:
The saturated vapour pressure at 20 0 C , Psat = 17.5 mm.
If the saturated vapour pressure at dew point be Pdew , we can write the relative humidity at
P
20 0 C = dew × 100 %
Psat
P 17.5 × 52
∴ dew × 100 = 52 Or, Pdew = = 9.1 mm.
Psat 100
Now, for the increase of temperature from 9 0 C to 10 0 C , the pressure increases from 8.6
mm to 9.2 mm.
∴The increase in pressure by (9.2 − 8.6) = 0.6 mm corresponds to 1 0 C increase in
temperature.
Thus the increase in pressure by (9.1 − 8.6) = 0.5 mm will correspond to
1 × 0.5
= 0.83 0 C increase in temperature.
0.6
∴ If the dew point pressure is 9.1 mm, the temperature = (9 + 0.83) = 9.83 0 C .
Therefore, the dew point = 9.83 0 C .

Example 5: An air condition machine sucks air of 90% relative humidity at 30 0 C and
cools it down to 20 0 C . In this, the relative humidity of air reduces to 50%. How much
water vapour is extracted from one cubic meter of air by the machine? Neglect the
volume change of air. The densities of saturated vapour at 30 0 C and 20 0 C are 30
gm/m 3 and 17 gm/m 3 . [J.E.E.]
Solution:
The relative humidity at 30 0 C is the ratio of the mass of water vapour in 1 m 3 air at
30 0 C to the mass of water vapour in 1 m 3 saturated air at that temperature.
M
We can write, RH = × 100 %,
M Sat
where M = the mass of water vapour in 1 m 3 air at 30 0 C and
M Sat = the mass of saturated water vapour in 1 m 3 air at 30 0 C = 30 gm.
∴According to question,
M
90 = × 100
30
90 × 30
∴ The mass of water vapour present in 1 m 3 of air, M = = 27 gm.
100
The relative humidity of air at 20 0 C becomes 50%.
Fundamental Physics I by Dr. Abhijit kar Gupta (email: kg.abhi@gmail.com) 8

Thus in a similar way, we can write the mass of water vapour present in 1 m 3 of air at
50 × 17
20 0 C = = 8.5 gm.
100
∴The mass of water vapour removed by the air condition machine = 27 − 8.5 = 18.5 gm.

Example 6: The temperature of a day is 20 0 C and the relative humidity is 60%. If the
temperature comes down to 5 0 C , what fraction of the water vapour will be condensed?
The saturated vapour pressures at 20 0 C and 5 0 C are 17.5 mm and 6.5 mm Hg.
[J.E.E.]
Solution:
The temperature of air = 20 0 C . The saturated vapour pressure at 20 0 C = 17.5 mm.
If now the pressure of water vapour present in the air at 20 0 C is p , we can write the
relative humidity,
p 17.5 × 60
60 = × 100 Or, p = = 10.5 mm.
17.5 100
As the pressure of water vapour in the air should be proportional to the mass of water
vapour in the air, we can write the mass of water vapour, m1 = k × 10.5 gm, where k is a
constant.
When the temperature comes down to 5 0 C , some water vapour would be condensed and
the air would be saturated by the remaining vapour.
The saturated vapour pressure at 5 0 C = 6.5 mm.
∴The mass of the water vapour present in air at 5 0 C , m 2 = k × 6.5 gm.
∴The mass of condensed water vapour due to reduction of temperature from 20 0 C to
5 0 C = (10.5k − 6.5k ) = 4k gm.
4k 8
∴ The fraction of condensed water vapour = = .
10.5k 21

Example 7: The volume of an air tight and dry room is 76 m 3 and its temperature is
17 0 C . A pot of water is now kept in that room. After how much evaporation of water the
rest of the water and the vapour will be in equilibrium? The saturated vapour pressure of
water at 17 0 C is 15 mm Hg. [I.I.T.]
Solution:
At equilibrium, the air inside the room at 17 0 C is saturated by water vapour where the
saturated vapour pressure is 15 mm Hg.
We have, the pressure P1 = 15 mm Hg, the temperature T1 = 273 + 17 = 290 K and the
volume V1 = 76 m 3 = 76 × 10 6 c.c.
Let the volume of the same water vapour at N.T.P. is V2 c.c. whereas the temperature and
pressure are T2 = 273 K and P2 = 760 mm Hg.
PV PV
Assuming the vapour follows the ideal gas law, we have 1 1 = 2 2
T1 T2
Fundamental Physics I by Dr. Abhijit kar Gupta (email: kg.abhi@gmail.com) 9

15 × 76 × 10 6 760 × V2 273
Or, = Or, V2 = × 15 × 10 5 = 14.12 × 10 5
290 273 290
∴The volume of the same saturated water vapour at N.T.P. is 14.12 × 10 5 c.c whereas the
mass should remain the same.
The mass of 1 Mole of water vapour (H 2 O) = 2 × 1 + 16 = 18 gm and the volume is 22.4
litre at N.T.P.
18
∴The density of water vapour at N.T.P. = gm/cc.
22.4 × 10 3
18
∴The mass of water vapour = 14.12 × 10 5 × = 1.135 × 10 3 gm = 1.135 kg.
22.4 × 10 3

Example 8: Determine the mass of 1 litre moist air when the air temperature is 27 0 C
and the barometer reading is 753.6 mm. The dew point is 16.1 0 C . The saturated vapour
pressure at 16.1 0 C is 13.6 mm Hg; the density of air at N.T.P. is 0.001293 gm/cc and the
density of saturated water vapour is 0.000808 gm//cc. [I.I.T.]
Solution:
The moist air contains dry air and water vapour.
∴ The pressure of moist air = the pressure of dry air + the pressure of water vapour
present in the air.
The pressure of water vapour in the air at 27 0 C = the pressure of water vapour in the
same air at dew point i.e. at 16.1 0 C = 13.6 mm.
∴The pressure due to dry air present in the moist air at 27 0 C = 753.6 − 13.6 = 740 mm.

P1V1 P2V2
Let us consider the air and water vapour follow ideal gas law, = .
T1 T2
For dry air, P1 = 740 mm, V1 = 1 litre = 10 3 c.c., T1 = 27 0 C = 273 + 27 = 300 K .
If the volume of the same air at N.T.P. is V2 , where P2 = 760 mm and T2 = 273 K , we
can write
740 × 10 3 760 × V2 740 × 273 × 10 3
= Or, V2 = = 886.05 c.c.
300 273 300 × 760

∴ The mass of dry air present in the moist air at 27 0 C = the mass of the same dry air at
N.T.P. = 886.05 × 0.001293 = 1.1457 gm.

For the water vapour present in the air at 27 0 C , P1 = 13.6 mm, V1 = 10 3 c.c., 10 3 c.c.,

10 3 c.c., T1 = 300 K . If the volume at N.T.P. is V2 , we can write

13.6 × 10 3 760 × V2 ′ 13.6 × 273 × 10
3
= Or, V2 = = 16.28 c.c.
300 273 760 × 300
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∴ The mass of water vapour present in the moist air at 27 0 C = the mass of the same
water vapour at N.T.P. = 16.28 × 0.000808 = 0.0131 gm.

∴The mass of 1 litre moist air = the mass of dry air + the mass of water vapour = 1.1457
+ 0.0131 = 1.1588 gm.

Example 9: A closed room measures 5 m× 5 m× 4 m. The room is filled with air at


27 0 C . If the relative humidity inside the room reduces from 90% to 40%, determine the
amount of moisture that is condensed. The pressure of saturated water vapour at 27 0 C =
26.7 mm Hg; the gas constant R = 8.3 × 10 7 erg/(mole 0 C ); the atomic weight of water =
18; g = 980 cm/sec 2 . [H.S. ’02; I.I.T.]
Solution:
Let the mass of water vapour required to saturate the air in the room at 27 0 C be m S gm.
As the mass of 1 gm-mole water vapour = 18 gm, the number of moles in the water
m
vapour, n = S .
18
If we assume the water vapour to follow ideal gas law , we have
PV = nRT
Here, P = the pressure of the saturated water vapour = 2.67 mm Hg = 2.67 × 13.6 × 980
dyne/cm 2 ,
V = the volume of the room = 5 × 5 × 4 m 3 = 100 × 10 6 cm 3 = 10 8 c.c.,
T = the temperature of water vapour = 27 + 273 = 300 K ,
R = 8.3 × 10 7 erg/(mole 0 C )
m
∴ 2.67 × 13.6 × 980 × 10 8 = S × 8.3 × 10 7 × 300
18
2.67 × 13.6 × 980 × 18
Or, m S = = 2572.46 gm
8.3 × 30

m
The relative humidity, RH = × 100 %, where m gm is the mass of water vapour
mS
present in the air at 27 0 C .
m
Now, when the relative humidity is 90%, we write 90 = × 100 Or,
2572.46
m = 2572.46 × 0.90 = 2315.21 .
∴The mass of water vapour present in the air when the relative humidity is 90% =
2315.21 gm.
Similarly, the mass of water vapour present in the air when the relative humidity is 40%
= 2572.46 × 0.40 = 1028.98 gm.
Therefore, the amount of water vapour condensed due to the reduction of relative
humidity = 2315.21 − 1028.98 = 1286.23 gm.
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Example 10: A flask contains 1 gm saturated steam at 100 0 C . How much steam is
condensed when the temperature is brought down to 25 0 C ? The pressure of water
vapour at 25 0 C = 30 mm Hg. [J.E.E.]
Solution:
For a certain fixed volume of air, the mass of water vapour in it is proportional to its
pressure.
m p
∴We can write, 25 = 25
m100 p100
Here, m25 = mass of water vapour at 25 0 C ,
m100 = mass of water vapour at 100 0 C = 1 gm,
p 25 = pressure of water vapour at 25 0 C = 30 mm Hg,
p100 = pressure of water vapour at 100 0 C = 760 mm Hg (normal pressure)
30 3
∴ m25 = ×1 = gm.
760 76
∴ The mass of condensed steam (water vapour) as the temperature is brought down from
3 73
100 0 C to 25 0 C = 1 − = = 0.96 gm.
76 76

Example 11: In a closed room, the air temperature is 15 0 C and the dew point is found to
be 8 0 C . If the temperature is brought down to 10 0 C , will there be any change in dew
point? The pressure of water vapour at 7 0 C is 7.49 mm and at 8 0 C it is 8.02 mm.
[J.E.E. ‘97]
Solution:
We know that the dew point is the temperature at which the water vapour present in the
volume of air becomes saturated. As long as the air contains the same amount of water
vapour, the dew point remains unchanged. If we assume that in a closed room, the
amount of water remains the same, the dew point is also set to be the same.

Note that the other sets of information, as given in the question, are unnecessary.

Example 12: The temperature of air on some day is 23 0 C and the relative humidity is
60%. Now if the air temperature comes down to 10 0 C , what fraction of water vapour
present in the air will condense? The saturated vapour pressure at 23 0 C and 10 0 C are
21.1 mm and 9.2 mm, respectively. [J.E.E. ‘95]
Solution:
The air temperature is 23 0 C and the saturated vapour pressure at this temperature = 21.1
mm.
If the vapour pressure of air at 23 0 C is p mm, we can write the relative humidity,
p
60 = × 100 Or, p = 0.6 × 21.1 = 12.66 mm.
21.1
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As the mass of water vapour present in the air is proportional to the vapour pressure, we
can write the mass of water vapour = k × 12.66 gm, where k is a constant.
When the temperature comes down to 10 0 C , some of the water vapour gets condensed
and the air remains saturated by the remaining water vapour.
The saturated water vapour at 10 0 C = 9.2 mm
∴The mass of water vapour present in the air at 10 0 C = k × 9.2 gm.
∴When the temperature reduces from 23 0 C to 10 0 C , the mass of condensed vapour =
12.66k − 9.2k = 3.46k gm.
3.46k
∴The fraction of condensed water vapour = = 0.27 .
12.66k

Discussions of a few Questions

Remember the following points:

• Saturation or 100% relative humidity can be achieved either by


introducing more water vapour or by lowering the temperature.
• The temperature at which the air is saturated by the water vapour in it
is called the dew point.
• Evaporation is faster when the vapour pressure is low which means
the amount of water vapour is less in the air and that means the relative
humidity is low.

Q.1 At which condition the temperature of a room and the dew point are equal?
[H.S. ‘98]
Ans. The temperature at which the air is saturated by the water vapour present in it is
called the dew point. If the temperature of the room has to be equal to the dew point then
the air in the room has to be saturated by the water vapour at this temperature.

Q.2 When will there be no dew point?


Ans. When the air is completely dry i.e. there is no water vapour present in the air, there
will not be any dew point.

Q.3 What will be the situation of the surroundings when the room temperature and the
dew point become equal? [H.S.]
Ans. When the room temperature and the dew point are equal, the air inside the room
will be saturated by the water vapour present in it. Therefore, the relative humidity will
Fundamental Physics I by Dr. Abhijit kar Gupta (email: kg.abhi@gmail.com) 13

be 100%. The air can not contain any more water vapour; any more addition of water
vapour will result in condensation.

Q.4 If the room temperature is increased, what will be its effect on the dew point and
the relative humidity? [H.S. ’96; J.E.E. ’99, ‘85]
Ans. The dew point is the temperature at which the air gets saturated by the water
vapour present in it. Therefore, as long as the amount of water vapour in the air is not
changed, the dew point also does not change. Thus the increase of room temperature has
no effect on the dew point.
The relative humidity at a certain temperature is the ratio of the mass of the water vapour
present in the air to the mass of water vapour required to saturate the air at that
temperature. As the temperature is increased, more water vapour is now required to
saturate the air. However, the amount of water vapour in the air remains the same which
makes the ratio to decrease. Thus the relative humidity reduces due to the increase in air
temperature.

Q.5 If some water is sprinkled in a room, how does it affect (i) the dew point and (ii) the
relative humidity? [H.S.]
Ans. (i) The air in the room contains a certain amount of water vapour. If now the
temperature of the room is reduced, eventually a temperature is reached when the air
becomes saturated by the water vapour in it and thus the dew point is reached. Now the
amount of water vapour in the air is increased as the water is sprinkled in the room. Thus
we will not have to reduce the temperature that much; the saturation will be reached at a
temperature above the earlier dew point. Therefore, the dew point will increase.
(ii) We know that the relative humidity at a certain temperature is the ratio of the mass
of the water vapour present in the air to the mass of water vapour required to saturate the
air at that temperature. We assume that the temperature of the air in the room does not
change due to the sprinkling of water. This means that the mass of water vapour required
to saturate the air remains the same. On the other hand, the air in the room now contains
more water vapour at the same temperature. Thus the ratio increase which means the
relative humidity increases.

Q.6 Two rooms have the same temperature. The relative humidity of air in one room is
more than that of the other. Which room will be more comfortable to you?
Ans. We control our body temperature in summer by sweating. The evaporation of
perspiration from our skin cools our body. But the evaporation depends on the relative
humidity of air surrounding us. Higher the relative humidity, the less effective the
evaporation is. Therefore, we feel hotter in the room which has higher relative humidity.

Q.7 In some day, the dew point inside and outside the room had been same but the
relative humidity was different. Explain this.
Ans. The dew point is the temperature at which the air gets saturated with the amount of
water vapour in it. If the air inside and outside the room contain the same proportion of
water vapour, the dew point may be the same at two places. But the relative humidity
depends on the air temperature apart from the amount of vapour present in the air. If the
Fundamental Physics I by Dr. Abhijit kar Gupta (email: kg.abhi@gmail.com) 14

temperatures inside and outside the room are different, the relative humidity will be
different.

Q.8 Why does the dry hot air is more comfortable than less hot and humid air? [H.S.]
Ans. When the air is hot, our body tries to control its temperature by cooling through
evaporation of sweat from our skin. Thus we feel comfort. The evaporation depends on
the relative humidity of the air. If the air is dry, the humidity is low which makes the
evaporation of sweat easier. Thus our body can cool down even if the air temperature is
high. On the other hand, if the relative humidity is high the evaporation can not happen at
as efficiently as before. Thus we can not cool down our body by sweating even if the air
temperature is not as high as before.

Q.9 The critical temperature of CO 2 is 31.4 0 C . Would you call it a gas or vapour if its
temperature is 25 0 C ? [J.E.E. ‘97]
Ans. If the temperature of a gaseous substance is above its critical temperature, it should
be called a gas and if it is below the critical temperature it should be termed as vapour. In
this case since CO 2 is at 25 0 C (below the critical point), it should be called vapour.

Q.10 Can there be a dew point below 0 0 C ?


Ans. If the air can be saturated by water vapour at a temperature below 0 0 C , then that
temperature will be a dew point. The saturation vapour pressure decreases monotonically
with temperature and which becomes as low as around 4.6 mm Hg at 0 0 C . For the air to
be saturated even at a temperature 0 0 C , the vapour pressure has to be equal to the above
value. But below 0 0 C , the water vapour directly becomes ice rather than reaching at the
saturation point. Thus the dew point is never reached below 0 0 C .

Q.11 What do you mean by the dew point of air to be 15 0 C ? [H.S. ‘02]
0
Ans. This means that the air would become saturated at 15 C by the amount of water
vapour present in it.

Q.12 Why does the saturated vapour pressure of a liquid at boiling point become equal
to the pressure of the gas above the liquid surface? [H.S. ’02; J.E.E. ‘98]
Ans. A liquid boils when its saturated vapour pressure becomes equal to the external
pressure on the liquid. During boiling bubbles of vapour form throughout the liquid and
they rise above the liquid surface and escape. If the external pressure is higher than the
saturated vapour pressure, these bubbles are prevented from forming.

Questionnaire

Very Short Questions: Mark: 1


Fundamental Physics I by Dr. Abhijit kar Gupta (email: kg.abhi@gmail.com) 15

(Answer in one or two words)

1. What is it called when the temperature of the atmosphere keeps reducing and that the
air gets saturated by the water vapour in it at a certain temperature? [dew point]

2. How much is the relative humidity of air at the dew point? [100%]
0 0
3. At a time when the air temperature is 20 C , the dew point is 15 C . What will be the
dew point when the air temperature rises to 25 0 C ? [15 0 C ]

(Fill in the Blanks)

1. If the air temperature is 10 0 C and the dew point is also10 0 C , the relative humidity is
--------%. [100]
2. In summer, Delhi is more comfortable than Kolkata because the relative humidity of
Delhi is ---------. [less]
3. If the air temperature is reduced, the relative humidity -------------. [goes up]
4. If the air temperature increases, the relative humidity -------------. [goes down]

(Multiple Choice type)

1. A container contains saturated water vapour. If now the temperature is increased


keeping the volume unchanged,
(a) the saturated vapour will be unsaturated (b) the vapour will reach dew point (c) some
water vapour will be condensed (d) nothing will happen.
[(a)]
2. A container contains saturated water vapour. If now the volume is decreased keeping
the temperature unchanged,
(a) the saturated vapour will be unsaturated (b) the vapour will reach dew point (c) some
water vapour will be condensed (d) nothing will happen.
[(c)]
3. The science of measuring moisture in the atmosphere is called
(a) thermometry (b) calorimetry (c) hygrometry (d) thermodynamics
[(c)]
4. When the temperature is increased, the saturated vapour pressure
(a) increases linearly with absolute temperature (b) increases, but not linearly with
absolute temperature (c) decreases with absolute temperature (d) decreases, but not
linearly with absolute temperature.
[(b)]
0
5. The pressure due to saturated vapour at 100 C is
(a) zero (b) one atmospheric pressure (c) less than one atmospheric pressure (d) greater
than one atmospheric pressure.
[(b)]
0
6. The dew point of air is 10 C at a time. The moisture in air will start becoming
unsaturated at a temperature of
Fundamental Physics I by Dr. Abhijit kar Gupta (email: kg.abhi@gmail.com) 16

(a) 10 0 C (b) less than 10 0 C (c) more than 10 0 C (d) 0 0 C


[(a)]
0 0
7. If the air temperature is 10 C and the dew point is also 10 C , then the relative
humidity is
(a) 0% (b) 200% (c) 100% (d) not sure
[(c)]
8. If the air is dry, then
(a) there is no dew point (b) the dew point is 0 0 C (c) the dew point is 100 0 C (d) the
dew point becomes equal to the temperature of the air.
[(a)]
9. Two rooms are at different temperatures but the dew points in them are the same.
What will be the relation between the relative humidity in the two rooms?
(a) They are equal (b) The relative humidity in the warmer room is greater than the other
(c) The relative humidity in the warmer room is lower than the other (d) The relative
humidity will depend on the size of the room.
[(c)]
10. It is not possible to get the wet cloth dried when
(a) the relative humidity in the air is 100% (b) the relative humidity in the air is 0% (c)
the air pressure is low (d) the dew point is high.
[(a)]

Short Questions: Marks: 2

1. What is vapour pressure? [H.S. ‘06]


2. What do you mean by saturated vapour pressure? [H.S. ‘06]
3. What is unsaturated vapour pressure? [H.S. ‘06]
4. Compare the saturated and the unsaturated vapour. [H.S. ‘03]
5. What is the effect of temperature on the saturated vapour pressure of water?
6. What is the difference between gas and vapour?
7. What is dew point? [H.S. ’94, ‘92]
8. Give the definitions of absolute humidity and relative humidity. [H.S. ‘92]