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Response of the South Asian Summer Monsoon to Global Warming: Mean and Synoptic Systems

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  • 1 International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
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Abstract

Recent diagnostics with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model, version 2.1 (GFDL CM2.1), coupled model’s twentieth-century simulations reveal that this particular model demonstrates skill in capturing the mean and variability associated with the South Asian summer monsoon precipitation. Motivated by this, the authors examine the future projections of the mean monsoon and synoptic systems in this model’s simulations in which quadrupling of CO2 concentrations are imposed.

In a warmer climate, despite a weakened cross-equatorial flow, the time-mean precipitation over peninsular parts of India increases by about 10%–15%. This paradox is interpreted as follows: the increased precipitation over the equatorial western Pacific forces an anomalous descending circulation over the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean, the two regions being connected by an overturning mass circulation. The spatially well-organized anomalous precipitation over the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean forces twin anticyclones as a Rossby wave response in the lower troposphere. The southern component of the anticyclone opposes and weakens the climatological cross-equatorial monsoon flow. The patch of easterly anomalies centered in the southern Arabian Sea is expected to deepen the thermocline north of the equator. Both these factors limit the coastal upwelling along Somalia, resulting in local sea surface warming and eventually leading to a local maximum in evaporation over the southern Arabian Sea. It is shown that changes in SST are predominantly responsible for the increase in evaporation over the southern Arabian Sea. The diagnostics suggest that in addition to the increased CO2-induced rise in temperature, evaporation, and atmospheric moisture, local circulation changes in the monsoon region further increase SST, evaporation, and atmospheric moisture, leading to increased rainfall over peninsular parts of India. This result implies that accurate observation of SST and surface fluxes over the Indian Ocean is of urgent need to understand and monitor the response of the monsoon in a warming climate.

To understand the regional features of the rainfall changes, the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) Regional Climate Model (RegCM), with three different resolution settings (0.5° × 0.5°, 0.75° × 0.75°, and 1.0° × 1.0°), was integrated for 20 yr, with lateral and lower boundary conditions taken from the GFDL model. The RegCM solutions confirm the major results obtained from the GFDL model but also capture the orographic nature of monsoon precipitation and regional circulation changes more realistically. The hypothesis that in a warmer climate, an increase in troposphere moisture content favors more intense monsoon depressions is tested. The GFDL model does not reveal any changes, but solutions from the RegCM suggest a statistically significant increase in the number of storms that have wind speeds of 15–20 m s−1 or greater, depending on the resolution employed. Based on these regional model solutions a possible implication is that in a CO2-richer climate an increase in the number of flood days over central India can be expected. The model results obtained here, though plausible, need to be taken with caution since even in this “best” model systematic errors still exist in simulating some aspects of the tropical and monsoon climates.

Corresponding author address: Dr. H. Annamalai, IPRC/SOEST, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1680 East West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: hanna@hawaii.edu

Abstract

Recent diagnostics with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model, version 2.1 (GFDL CM2.1), coupled model’s twentieth-century simulations reveal that this particular model demonstrates skill in capturing the mean and variability associated with the South Asian summer monsoon precipitation. Motivated by this, the authors examine the future projections of the mean monsoon and synoptic systems in this model’s simulations in which quadrupling of CO2 concentrations are imposed.

In a warmer climate, despite a weakened cross-equatorial flow, the time-mean precipitation over peninsular parts of India increases by about 10%–15%. This paradox is interpreted as follows: the increased precipitation over the equatorial western Pacific forces an anomalous descending circulation over the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean, the two regions being connected by an overturning mass circulation. The spatially well-organized anomalous precipitation over the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean forces twin anticyclones as a Rossby wave response in the lower troposphere. The southern component of the anticyclone opposes and weakens the climatological cross-equatorial monsoon flow. The patch of easterly anomalies centered in the southern Arabian Sea is expected to deepen the thermocline north of the equator. Both these factors limit the coastal upwelling along Somalia, resulting in local sea surface warming and eventually leading to a local maximum in evaporation over the southern Arabian Sea. It is shown that changes in SST are predominantly responsible for the increase in evaporation over the southern Arabian Sea. The diagnostics suggest that in addition to the increased CO2-induced rise in temperature, evaporation, and atmospheric moisture, local circulation changes in the monsoon region further increase SST, evaporation, and atmospheric moisture, leading to increased rainfall over peninsular parts of India. This result implies that accurate observation of SST and surface fluxes over the Indian Ocean is of urgent need to understand and monitor the response of the monsoon in a warming climate.

To understand the regional features of the rainfall changes, the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) Regional Climate Model (RegCM), with three different resolution settings (0.5° × 0.5°, 0.75° × 0.75°, and 1.0° × 1.0°), was integrated for 20 yr, with lateral and lower boundary conditions taken from the GFDL model. The RegCM solutions confirm the major results obtained from the GFDL model but also capture the orographic nature of monsoon precipitation and regional circulation changes more realistically. The hypothesis that in a warmer climate, an increase in troposphere moisture content favors more intense monsoon depressions is tested. The GFDL model does not reveal any changes, but solutions from the RegCM suggest a statistically significant increase in the number of storms that have wind speeds of 15–20 m s−1 or greater, depending on the resolution employed. Based on these regional model solutions a possible implication is that in a CO2-richer climate an increase in the number of flood days over central India can be expected. The model results obtained here, though plausible, need to be taken with caution since even in this “best” model systematic errors still exist in simulating some aspects of the tropical and monsoon climates.

Corresponding author address: Dr. H. Annamalai, IPRC/SOEST, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1680 East West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: hanna@hawaii.edu

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