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An Investigation of the Onsets of the 1999 and 2000 Monsoons in Central Nepal

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  • 1 Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Abstract

The Marsyandi River basin in the central Nepalese Himalayas is a topographically complex region, with strong spatial gradients of precipitation over various timescales. A meteorological network consisting of 20 stations was installed at a variety of elevations (528–4435 m) in this region, and measurements of rainfall were made during the 1999 and 2000 summer monsoons. The onsets of the 1999 and 2000 monsoons in central Nepal were examined at different spatial scales by using a combination of rain gauge, Meteosat-5, Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), ECMWF analysis, and Indian radiosonde data. At the network, the onsets manifested themselves as multiday rain events, which included a mixture of stratiform and convective precipitation. Moist and unstable upslope flow was associated with the occurrence of heavy rainfall. During each onset, 2-day rainfall reached as high as 462 mm, corresponding to 10%–20% of the monsoon rainfall. Differences among rain gauges were up to a factor of 8, reflecting the role of small-scale terrain features in modulating rainfall amounts. At the larger scale, the onsets were associated with monsoon depressions from the Bay of Bengal that moved close enough to the Himalayas to cause the observed upslope flow from the winds on their eastern flank. During the 1999 onset, convection in this eastern flank collided with the mountains in the vicinity of the network. In 2000 no major collision occurred, and 33%–50% less rain than 1999 fell. Analysis of observations for a 5-yr period (1997–2001) suggests that the interannual variability of the monsoon onset along the Himalayan range is linked to the trajectories and strength of these depressions.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Ana P. Barros, Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Pierce Hall 118, 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Email: barros@deas.harvard.edu

Abstract

The Marsyandi River basin in the central Nepalese Himalayas is a topographically complex region, with strong spatial gradients of precipitation over various timescales. A meteorological network consisting of 20 stations was installed at a variety of elevations (528–4435 m) in this region, and measurements of rainfall were made during the 1999 and 2000 summer monsoons. The onsets of the 1999 and 2000 monsoons in central Nepal were examined at different spatial scales by using a combination of rain gauge, Meteosat-5, Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), ECMWF analysis, and Indian radiosonde data. At the network, the onsets manifested themselves as multiday rain events, which included a mixture of stratiform and convective precipitation. Moist and unstable upslope flow was associated with the occurrence of heavy rainfall. During each onset, 2-day rainfall reached as high as 462 mm, corresponding to 10%–20% of the monsoon rainfall. Differences among rain gauges were up to a factor of 8, reflecting the role of small-scale terrain features in modulating rainfall amounts. At the larger scale, the onsets were associated with monsoon depressions from the Bay of Bengal that moved close enough to the Himalayas to cause the observed upslope flow from the winds on their eastern flank. During the 1999 onset, convection in this eastern flank collided with the mountains in the vicinity of the network. In 2000 no major collision occurred, and 33%–50% less rain than 1999 fell. Analysis of observations for a 5-yr period (1997–2001) suggests that the interannual variability of the monsoon onset along the Himalayan range is linked to the trajectories and strength of these depressions.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Ana P. Barros, Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Pierce Hall 118, 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Email: barros@deas.harvard.edu

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