What is the dew point and how does it relate to humidity?
The dew point is the temperature below which the water vapor in a volume of humid air at a constant barometric pressure will condense into liquid water. Condensed water is called dew when it forms on a solid surface.
The dew point is a water-to-air saturation temperature. The dew point is associated with relative humidity. A high relative humidity indicates that the dew point is closer to the current air temperature. Relative humidity of 100% indicates the dew point is equal to the current temperature and that the air is maximally saturated with water. When the dew point remains constant and temperature increases, relative humidity decreases. General aviation pilots use dew-point data to calculate the likelihood of carburetor icing and fog, and to estimate the height of the cloud base.
This graph shows the maximum percentage, by mass, of water vapor that air at sea-level across a range of temperatures can contain.
A given temperature and independent of barometric pressure
At a given temperature but independent of barometric pressure, the dew point is a consequence of the absolute humidity, the mass of water per unit volume of air. If both the temperature and pressure rise, however, the dew point will rise and the relative humidity will lower accordingly. Reducing the absolute humidity without changing other variables will bring the dew point back down to its initial value. In the same way, increasing the absolute humidity after a temperature drop brings the dew point back down to its initial level. If the temperature rises in conditions of constant pressure, then the dew point will remain constant but the relative humidity will drop. For this reason, a constant relative humidity (%) with different temperatures implies that when it’s hotter, a higher fraction of the air is water vapor than when it’s cooler.
A given barometric pressure but independent of temperature
At a given barometric pressure but independent of temperature, the dew point indicates the mole fraction of water vapor in the air, or, put differently, determines the specific humidity of the air. If the pressure rises without changing this mole fraction, the dew point will rise accordingly; Reducing the mole fraction, i.e., making the air less humid, would bring the dew point back down to its initial value. In the same way, increasing the mole fraction after a pressure drop brings the relative humidity back up to its initial level. Considering New York (33 ft elevation) and Denver (5,280 ft elevation), for example, this means that if the dew point and temperature in both cities are the same, then the mass of water vapor per cubic meter of air will be the same, but the mole fraction of water vapor in the air will be greater in Denver.