If a colder air mass blows over warmer ocean water, does evaporation of water happen quicker than earlier when the air was warmer?

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    $\begingroup$ Note that relative humidity plays a role in the rate as well as temperatures of air and water. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 8 at 1:53
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it depends on how dry the air is initially as well as its temperature. The velocity of the air is also important, as fresh dryer air causes more evaporation than stagnant air that has become wetter. $\endgroup$
    – John Darby
    Mar 8 at 2:49
  • $\begingroup$ There is an invention known as a "hair dryer" which people use to dry their hair. Does this invention supply hot air or cold air? $\endgroup$ Mar 8 at 11:17
  • $\begingroup$ Simple hint: cold enough air will freeze the water. What do you think happens to the evaporation rate then? $\endgroup$ Mar 8 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ @ChetMiller I have telekinetic powers far beyond that of mortal man $\endgroup$ Mar 9 at 13:03

1 Answer 1


All else being equal (wind speed, pressure, humidity, water temperature, sunlight, etc), warmer air corresponds to more/quicker evaporation, because there is more energy available to pay for the phase change from liquid to gas.

The phenomenon of seeing clouds of steam coming from comparatively warm liquids in cold air has to do with condensation. Water vapor is invisible. The smoky white clouds rising over warm water on a cold day are not water vapor but liquid water: countless tiny droplets of liquid water that has condensed after rising as vapor from the surface and then cooling and condensing upon exposure to the cooler air.

You don't see clouds rising from water on warm days because the warmer air can have more water vapor in it before condensation begins, that is, it has a higher dew point. The water is still there, but it's a vapor, so you can't see it.

  • $\begingroup$ Be careful about absolute vs. relative humidity there. $\endgroup$ Mar 8 at 16:43

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