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    January–September monthly evolution of SST anomalies (°C) and JJAS seasonal mean SST anomalies during 2010 for (a) observed SST anomalies, (b) ENSO component, and (c) ENSO-unrelated component. ENSO-related and ENSO-unrelated SST patterns were estimated from monthly SST anomalies during 2010 following Compo and Sardeshmukh (2010). SST anomalies are computed from the base period 1948–2010. Monthly SSTs are taken from HadISST (Rayner et al. 2003).

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    Spatial distribution of mean rainfall (shaded; unit: mm day−1) superimposed on mean vertically integrated moisture transport vectors (unit: Kg m−1 s−1) for JJAS seasonal average for (a) TRMM rainfall climatology for the base period (1998–2010) and moisture transport NCEP climatology (1950–2010) and (b) ensemble mean of C-SST runs. The moisture transport vectors are integrated from the surface pressure to the 300-hPa level. (c) Differences of rainfall and moisture transport between C-SST simulated and TRMM and NCEP climatologies. (d) Histogram (black bars) of minimum daily midtropospheric (500 hPa) vertical velocity time series extracted from the northwest Pakistan region (30°–36°N, 70°–74°E) during JJAS in the C-SST experiments with fitted Weibull PDF (black curve). The x axis is 500-hPa vertical velocity (unit: Pa s−1), and upward vertical velocity is negative. The y axis is probability density. The histogram is normalized by area (e.g., bin width by number of observations in each bin) for better comparison with the fitted PDF. See text for further details.

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    Rainfall (shaded; unit: mm day−1) and vertically integrated moisture transport (unit: Kg m−1 s−1) anomalies during boreal summer of 2010 for (a) TRMM rainfall (shaded) and NCEP moisture transport (vector) and (b) R-SST runs. For observations, rainfall (vertically integrated moisture transport) anomalies are computed from the base period 1998–2010 (1950–2010). The R-SST rainfall and vertically integrated moisture transport anomalies are relative to the climatology estimated from the C-SST runs.

  • View in gallery

    Fitted Weibull PDF of minimum daily midtropospheric (500 hPa) vertical velocity (unit: Pa s−1) time series extracted from the northwest Pakistan region (30°–36°N, 70°–74°E) during JJAS for the C-SST (black), R-SST (blue), E-SST (red), NE-SST (green), and NE-IO-SST (purple) sets of experiments. The inset shows the details of the left tail of the PDFs, which describes the occurrence of extreme daily events in the simulations. The x axis is 500-hPa vertical velocity, and upward vertical velocity is negative. The y axis is probability density.

  • View in gallery

    (a) North–south cross section of zonally averaged (60°–75°E) meridional and vertical wind anomalies over the west Indian Ocean (domain: 20°S–35°N) during JJAS of 2010 from NCEP. (b) As in (a), but for R-SST runs. (c) North–south cross section of zonally averaged (85°–110°E) meridional and vertical wind anomalies over the east Indian Ocean (domain: 20°S–40°N) during JJAS of 2010 from NCEP. (d) As in (c), but for R-SST runs. (e) East–west cross section of meridionally averaged (15°S–0°) zonal and vertical wind anomalies for the domain 30°–240°E during JJAS of 2010 from NCEP. (f) As in (e), but for R-SST runs. Upward vertical velocity is negative in all panels. The wind anomalies for the R-SST runs are relative to the climatology estimated from the C-SST runs. NCEP wind anomalies are computed from the 1950–2010 climatology. East–west circulation is plotted after removing the zonal mean from the circulation parameters.

  • View in gallery

    As in Fig. 3, but for rainfall and vertically integrated moisture transport anomalies during JJAS 2010 in (a) E-SST runs, (b) NE-SST runs, (c) NE-IO-SST runs.

  • View in gallery

    JJAS anomalies of potential function (unit: 107 Kg s−1) and divergent component of vertically integrated water vapor transport vector (Kg m−1 s−1) for (a) R-SST runs, (b) E-SST runs, and (c) NE-SST runs. Water vapor transport vectors are vertically integrated from the surface to 300 hPa. The potential function and divergent component of vertically integrated water vapor transport vectors are estimated on a global domain but are shown here only over the region of interest (Chen 1985; Krishnan 1998). The anomalies are computed from the JJAS climatology of potential function and divergent component of vertically integrated water vapor transport in the C-SST runs. Anomalies significant at the 95% confidence level (using a Student two-tailed test) are dotted.

  • View in gallery

    (a) North–south cross section of zonally averaged (60°–75°E) meridional and vertical wind anomalies over the west Indian Ocean (domain: 20°S–35°N) during JJAS of 2010 for NE-SST runs. (b) As in (a), but for E-SST runs. (c) East–west cross section of meridionally averaged (15°S–0°) zonal and vertical wind anomalies for the domain 30°–240°E during JJAS of 2010 for NE-SST runs. (d) As in (c), but for E-SST runs. Upward vertical velocity is negative in all panels. The wind anomalies for the NE-SST and E-SST runs are relative to the climatology estimated from the C-SST runs.

  • View in gallery

    JJAS anomalies of streamfunction (unit: 107 Kg s−1) and rotational component of vertically integrated water vapor transport vector (Kg m−1 s−1) for (a) R-SST runs, (b) E-SST runs, and (c) NE-SST runs. Anomalies significant at the 95% confidence level (using a Student two-tailed test) are dotted.

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Impacts of Indo-Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies on the Summer Monsoon Circulation and Heavy Precipitation over Northwest India–Pakistan Region during 2010

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  • 1 Centre for Climate Change Research, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, India
  • | 2 Centre for Climate Change Research, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, India, and LOCEAN Laboratory, Sorbonne Universités (UPMC, Université Paris 06)–CNRS–IRD–MNHN, Paris, France, and Indo-French Cell for Water Sciences, IISc–IITM–NIO–IRD Joint International Laboratory, IITM, Pune, India
  • | 3 Centre for Climate Change Research, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, India
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Abstract

Quite a few studies have documented the evolution of monsoon synoptic systems and midlatitude atmospheric blocking associated with the recent heavy precipitation and floods over northwest Pakistan during 2010. This period also witnessed a very unusual Indo-Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) evolution with a strong La Niña event in the Pacific, substantial Indian Ocean warming, and a negative Indian Ocean dipole event, together with significant enhancement of precipitation over both the equatorial western Pacific Ocean and the eastern Indian Ocean.

Here, the authors perform a suite of high-resolution atmospheric general circulation model experiments to investigate the influence of Indo-Pacific SST anomalies on the South Asian monsoon circulation and heavy precipitation over Pakistan and adjoining northwest India during 2010. The realistic simulation of these rainfall anomalies using observed SSTs motivated the authors to explore the specific influence of Indian Ocean and Pacific SST anomalies through additional simulation experiments. The authors find that, in addition to strengthening of the Pacific Walker circulation, the anomalous intensification of east–west circulation over the Indian Ocean in 2010 was a key element in contributing to precipitation enhancement over the northwest India–Pakistan region. It is found that the subsiding branch of the east–west circulation over the Indian Ocean induced anomalous subsidence over the western tropical Indian Ocean and played a key role in inducing northward transport of moisture and promoting generation of strong upward motion and heavy precipitation events over the northwest India–Pakistan region.

Corresponding author address: Milind Mujumdar, Centre for Climate Change Research, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Dr. Homi Bhabha Road, Pashan, Pune 411 008, Maharashtra, India. E-mail: mujum@tropmet.res.in

Abstract

Quite a few studies have documented the evolution of monsoon synoptic systems and midlatitude atmospheric blocking associated with the recent heavy precipitation and floods over northwest Pakistan during 2010. This period also witnessed a very unusual Indo-Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) evolution with a strong La Niña event in the Pacific, substantial Indian Ocean warming, and a negative Indian Ocean dipole event, together with significant enhancement of precipitation over both the equatorial western Pacific Ocean and the eastern Indian Ocean.

Here, the authors perform a suite of high-resolution atmospheric general circulation model experiments to investigate the influence of Indo-Pacific SST anomalies on the South Asian monsoon circulation and heavy precipitation over Pakistan and adjoining northwest India during 2010. The realistic simulation of these rainfall anomalies using observed SSTs motivated the authors to explore the specific influence of Indian Ocean and Pacific SST anomalies through additional simulation experiments. The authors find that, in addition to strengthening of the Pacific Walker circulation, the anomalous intensification of east–west circulation over the Indian Ocean in 2010 was a key element in contributing to precipitation enhancement over the northwest India–Pakistan region. It is found that the subsiding branch of the east–west circulation over the Indian Ocean induced anomalous subsidence over the western tropical Indian Ocean and played a key role in inducing northward transport of moisture and promoting generation of strong upward motion and heavy precipitation events over the northwest India–Pakistan region.

Corresponding author address: Milind Mujumdar, Centre for Climate Change Research, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Dr. Homi Bhabha Road, Pashan, Pune 411 008, Maharashtra, India. E-mail: mujum@tropmet.res.in

1. Introduction

The intense rainfall events over Pakistan during the peak summer monsoon of 2010 resulted in the record-breaking catastrophic flood in this region, which affected millions of the people (Houze et al. 2011). The humanitarian disaster caused by the July–August 2010 flash floods over Pakistan called for a detailed scientific investigation in order to determine if such climate events can be anticipated. The results suggest a potential predictability of about a week based on the ECMWF Ensemble Prediction System (EPS; Webster et al. 2011).

Since then, many scientific investigations have been conducted to unravel the factors leading to this unprecedented disaster. First, the torrential rainfall over the region is mainly attributed to westward displacement of dramatic weather patterns, which normally occurred over northeastern India and Bangladesh during the monsoon (Houze et al. 2011; Rasmussen et al. 2015). Next, it has been shown that the southward intrusion of midlatitude weather systems associated with a persistent blocking high over Europe and Russia was one of the key factors for the occurrence of the northwest India–Pakistan (Indo-Pak) extreme rainfall events (Hong et al. 2011; Lau and Kim 2012; Martius et al. 2013; Ullah and Shouting 2013). Hong et al. (2011) suggest that the feedbacks between midlatitude disturbances downstream of the persistent European blocking high and monsoon surges were the main factors responsible for the extreme rainfall events.

However, large-scale patterns of climate variability arising from slowly varying tropical sea surface temperature (SST) boundary conditions are also effective agents for setting up quasi-stationary atmospheric circulation anomalies, which can in turn influence the occurrence of precipitation extremes over smaller regions by modulating synoptic, subsynoptic, and mesoscale variabilities (Trenberth 2012; Yamagata et al. 2004; Behera et al. 2013). As an illustration, Behera et al. (2013) have discussed recently the teleconnections of extreme summers in Europe with Indo-Pacific SSTs. In this framework, summertime Indo-Pacific SSTs during 2010 have evolved as the combination of three dominant modes of variability. The year 2010 was marked as one of the strongest La Niña events on long-term record (Mann 2011; Luo et al. 2012; http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/feature/ENSO-feature.shtml). Tropical Indian Ocean warming (Kim et al. 2011) and a negative phase of the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) phenomenon (Horii et al. 2013) were also prominent during 2010 boreal summer. It is worth mentioning, however, that the 2010 extreme rainfall event over Indo-Pak region is also an unique event in the set of years in which a La Niña and a negative IOD events have simultaneously co-occurred (see Mujumdar et al. 2012).

La Niña atmospheric teleconnections generally favor excessive summer monsoon rainfall over south Asia (Rasmusson and Carpenter 1983; Halpert and Ropelewski 1992). It is worth mentioning that some of the past La Niñas (e.g., 1956, 1973, and 1988) also coincided with flood events over the northern Indo-Pak region (Mujumdar et al. 2012). However, among these cold Pacific episodes, 2010 is very unique by the significant westward shift of large-scale circulation over Indo-Pacific sector and the intensification of rainfall activity over northwest India and adjacent subtropical Pakistan during boreal summer (Mujumdar et al. 2012). Thus, La Niña–induced weakened eastward moisture flux convergence over India and the Bay of Bengal (BoB) was suggested as only a secondary factor responsible for the extreme rainfall events over subtropical Indo-Pak region during 2010 (Hong et al. 2011).

Similarly, the prominent tropical Indian Ocean warming, which follows the mature phase of the El Niño events, is known to promote abundant rainfall over the Indian subcontinent during the next boreal summer (Yang et al. 2007; Boschat et al. 2011). Some studies have also suggested that anomalous convection associated with positive SST anomalies over the southeast Indian Ocean, as in the 2010 summer, may also promote enhanced rainfall over western India and surrounding areas (Terray et al. 2007). However, the possible roles of Indian Ocean warming during early boreal summer of 2010 or negative IOD event during late summer and fall of 2010 were not explored in the previous studies.

Finally, the repeated occurrences of flood episodes over Pakistan and northwest India during 2010, 2011, and 2012 (Rasmussen et al. 2015) question the scientific community about the possible links between these recurrent events and the role of greenhouse warming since extreme events are projected to increase in a warming environment (Chou et al. 2012; Trenberth 2012). Moreover, significant increase of rainfall extremes over India has already been reported in the literature and the role of the sustained Indian Ocean warming trend during recent decades has been suggested (Goswami et al. 2006; Menon et al. 2013; Roxy et al. 2014). However, again the specific role of the global warming environment in promoting the recent flood episodes in the Indo-Pak region is almost unexplored in the previous studies.

In other words, the specific role of Indo-Pacific SST anomalies related to El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), IOD, or Indian Ocean warming in the evolution of Indo-Pak extreme rainfall events is not clear from the above studies and is still a matter of debate. Thus, a comprehensive study focusing specifically on the role of SST forcing on the recent Pakistan floods is missing to the best of our knowledge. This prompts us to further investigate these key questions here in order to improve our understanding of the large-scale SST signals contributing to the occurrence of floods events in the Indo-Pak region. Since observations alone are not sufficient to delineate quantitatively the role of the different SST signals on the Pakistan flood of 2010, these questions are tackled in a modeling framework with a help of various sensitivity experiments conducted with an atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM). More precisely, various sets of ensemble simulation experiments with a high-resolution AGCM were carried out to understand the contributions of various aspects of Indo-Pacific SST forcing in triggering the extreme summer monsoon rainfall activity over subtropical South Asia.

The paper is organized as follows: A description of the AGCM, the precise setup of our various sensitivity experiments, the observed datasets, and statistical tools used in our diagnostic analysis is provided in section 2. Section 3 assesses the realism of simulations of large-scale circulation patterns over Indo-Pacific region associated with subtropical South Asian extreme rainfall events from a set of simulations forced with observed SST anomalies during 2010. Section 4 is devoted to a quantitative assessment of the role ENSO and ENSO-unrelated SST anomalies on the 2010 flood events with the help of several dedicated sets of sensitivity experiments conducted with the same AGCM. Analysis of the divergent and nondivergent components of the anomalous vertically integrated water vapor transport in the sensitivity experiments is provided in section 5 in order to unravel the role of intrinsic Indian Ocean variability during 2010. The discussion and summary are presented in the last section.

2. Datasets, methods, SST boundary forcings, and numerical experiments

Our diagnostic and simulation analyses are mostly focused on summer monsoon season [June–September (JJAS)] of 2010. For a comparison of rainfall between observations and the model outputs, we used gridded rainfall data (0.25° × 0.25°) from Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), specifically the 3B42-V6 product from 1998 to 2010 (Huffman et al. 2007). Mean sea level pressure and atmospheric circulation at standard pressure levels are taken from National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP–NCAR) reanalysis (Kistler et al. 2001). The SST data are based on the Hadley Centre Sea Ice and Sea Surface Temperature dataset (HadISST; Rayner et al. 2003).

The evolution of SST monthly anomalies for the period January to September 2010 is shown in Fig. 1 along with seasonal (JJAS) SST anomalies. As illustrated by Fig. 1a, 2010 is marked by a very unusual Indo-Pacific SST evolution with a very fast transition from a warm pool El Niño during 2009 to a strong La Niña event in the equatorial Pacific a few months later. Interestingly, this rapid transition was accompanied by a prominent warming of the tropical Indian Ocean during spring and early summer of 2010. Kim et al. (2011) have illustrated the dominant contribution of the basinwide Indian Ocean warming in the fast evolution of the 2010 La Niña from the preceding El Niño episode. When the Indian Ocean is warm, the induced anomalous easterlies over the west and central equatorial Pacific can trigger an upwelling thermocline anomaly propagating eastward that fastens the transition from El Niño to La Niña (Kug and Kang 2006).

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

January–September monthly evolution of SST anomalies (°C) and JJAS seasonal mean SST anomalies during 2010 for (a) observed SST anomalies, (b) ENSO component, and (c) ENSO-unrelated component. ENSO-related and ENSO-unrelated SST patterns were estimated from monthly SST anomalies during 2010 following Compo and Sardeshmukh (2010). SST anomalies are computed from the base period 1948–2010. Monthly SSTs are taken from HadISST (Rayner et al. 2003).

Citation: Journal of Climate 28, 9; 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00595.1

To delineate quantitatively the relative role of ENSO and other factors (e.g., global warming or intrinsic Indian Ocean variability) in the Indo-Pacific SST evolution during 2010, the linear inverse modeling approach of Compo and Sardeshmukh (2010) was used. This approach is one of the best methods currently available to isolate ENSO component in climate time series as demonstrated by the work of Penland and coworkers during the last two decades (see http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/people/cecile.penland/pubs.html). The ENSO and ENSO-unrelated components of monthly SST anomalies during 2010 were kindly provided by G. Compo (2012, personal communication). These components for 2010 were estimated using exactly the same technique as described in Compo and Sardeshmukh (2010) and are displayed in Figs. 1b,c, respectively. Here, it should be noted that ENSO-unrelated SST anomalies represent the combination of anthropogenic forced and internally coherent multidecadal to interannual SST variations not related to ENSO (Compo and Sardeshmukh 2010). The anomalous cooling over north subtropical and eastern equatorial Pacific observed in the ENSO component, as soon as March 2010, significantly marks the fast transition to a La Niña state (Fig. 1b). However, the Pacific SST anomalies observed during 2010 are also strongly modulated by the ENSO-unrelated component with anomalous warming (cooling) over western and eastern equatorial (northwest and central) Pacific regions.

The prominent warming over tropical Indian Ocean is consistent throughout the season, though it is weaker in September. It is noteworthy that the basinwide Indian Ocean warming during 2010 is mostly attributed to ENSO (since the ENSO-unrelated component mostly promotes cooling in the central Indian Ocean during 2010), but with two important exceptions in the northwest Arabian Sea and the southeast Indian Ocean, respectively. These two regions witnessed warm SST anomalies from March onward in the ENSO-unrelated component during 2010. The northwest Arabian Sea warming is particularly significant (Fig. 1a) and is mostly contributed by the ENSO-unrelated variability (Fig. 1c). Similarly, the SST pattern associated with the 2010 negative IOD event (with positive SST anomalies over the southeast Indian Ocean and negative anomalies farther west) is already seen from June onward in the ENSO-unrelated component (Horii et al. 2013).

In summary, observed SSTs during 2010 include all types of SST components mentioned above. Thus, in order to further delineate the impacts of these various SST boundary forcings on the 2010 monsoon, we have performed a suite of five ensemble sets of seasonal (May–October) simulation experiments using a high-resolution AGCM. The model used is a state-of-the-art global model [LMD Zoom, version 4 (LMDZ4)] developed at the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (France). The model has been zoomed to ~35 km × 35 km over the Indian summer monsoon (0°–40°N, 45°–110°E) region (Sabin et al. 2013). The time varying forcing agents in the AGCM (e.g., atmospheric CO2, CH4, N2O) are set to present values. Other details of the AGCM are provided by Hourdin et al. (2006) and Sabin et al. (2013) and are not repeated here for conciseness.

The five ensemble sets of experiments differ from each other only with regards to the specification of the SST boundary conditions. Each of these sets comprises 10 simulations starting from 16 May 2010, and 10 perturbed initial conditions for these 10 realizations were generated following a slight variation of the method described in Sabin et al. (2013). Starting from initial conditions based on the ECMWF analysis for the month of January, 10 2-yr simulations forced with repeated observed SSTs for each year of the 2000–09 period were first performed with the AGCM. Model dumps were stored for every 15-day interval and the 10 model dumps for 16 May of the second year constitute the 10 perturbed initial conditions.

The details and acronyms of the five sets of experiments performed are summarized in Table 1. The first set of experiments, labeled as C-SST, uses climatological SSTs as boundary conditions. The large-scale, as well as the regional, features of the South Asian summer monsoon are realistically simulated by the C-SST control runs, thanks to the telescopic zoom over the Indian domain (Fig. 2). The strong moisture advection from Arabian Sea and BoB into the monsoon trough zone is also well captured by the C-SST runs (Fig. 2b). The widespread rainfall distribution over Indian subcontinent in LMDZ simulations is seen to be closely associated with strong southwesterly flow over the Arabian Sea, as observed. The large-scale cyclonic circulation associated with the monsoon trough and the significant strengthening of near-equatorial convection and cross-equatorial flow are also well captured, in addition to the synoptic features associated with the monsoon (see Sabin et al. 2013). However, the difference of observed rainfall climatology with that of C-SST shows a wet bias over the South Asian monsoon domain and the Maritime Continent (Fig. 2c). These biases are associated with stronger easterlies over the Maritime Continent and a strong moisture advection from the Arabian Sea and BoB to the Indian subcontinent, respectively. Interestingly, the simulated rainfall over the monsoon trough region (covering north-central India), narrow mountain range of the Western Ghats and Myanmar is more realistic than in the standard version of the LMD model (Sabin et al. 2013). The realism of the monsoon (due to the use of high-resolution zooming) in the C-SST experiments suggests that the LMDZ model is an interesting tool for studying the role of different SST forcings in the 2010 monsoon with the help of sensitivity experiments.

Table 1.

Acronyms and SST boundary forcings for the different sets of LMDZ simulation experiments.

Table 1.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.

Spatial distribution of mean rainfall (shaded; unit: mm day−1) superimposed on mean vertically integrated moisture transport vectors (unit: Kg m−1 s−1) for JJAS seasonal average for (a) TRMM rainfall climatology for the base period (1998–2010) and moisture transport NCEP climatology (1950–2010) and (b) ensemble mean of C-SST runs. The moisture transport vectors are integrated from the surface pressure to the 300-hPa level. (c) Differences of rainfall and moisture transport between C-SST simulated and TRMM and NCEP climatologies. (d) Histogram (black bars) of minimum daily midtropospheric (500 hPa) vertical velocity time series extracted from the northwest Pakistan region (30°–36°N, 70°–74°E) during JJAS in the C-SST experiments with fitted Weibull PDF (black curve). The x axis is 500-hPa vertical velocity (unit: Pa s−1), and upward vertical velocity is negative. The y axis is probability density. The histogram is normalized by area (e.g., bin width by number of observations in each bin) for better comparison with the fitted PDF. See text for further details.

Citation: Journal of Climate 28, 9; 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00595.1

The second experiment (R-SST) uses observed SSTs of 2010. The significant modulations of the Indo-Pacific SST patterns during 2010 by the ENSO-unrelated component are particularly intriguing and warrant further investigation with respect to the occurrence of the heavy precipitation events during 2010. Thus, the next two sets of ensemble experiments are carried out by using ENSO and ENSO-unrelated SST anomalies, respectively (see Figs. 1b,c), superimposed on the monthly climatological SST (computed from the period 1948–2010) as boundary forcing conditions for 2010. These third and fourth ensemble sets are labeled E-SST and NE-SST, respectively (Table 1). Finally, the significant contribution from intrinsic Indian Ocean variability during 2010 is brought out by conducting a fifth ensemble of sensitivity experiments retaining ENSO-unrelated SST anomalies over Indian Ocean (15°S–28°N, 40°–110°E) and climatological SST elsewhere. Thus, in this last set of experiments, labeled as NE-IO-SST, both the Pacific SST interannual variability and the ENSO-related signal in the Indian Ocean are suppressed.

The synoptic-scale convective activity associated with low-level moisture convergence and extreme rainfall events can be better understood by the analysis of daily minimum midtropospheric (500 hPa) vertical wind velocity (Hourdin et al. 2006). In the present study, we employ Weibull distribution fitting, as a guiding and descriptive tool, to understand how daily midtropospheric vertical velocity is varying over the northwest Pakistan region (70°–74°N, 30°–36°E) during summer of 2010 in the different sets of simulation experiments. The Weibull distribution is a special type of extreme value distribution, which has been extensively used to study the behavior of the lower tail of a data sample distribution and to model wind speed statistics (Conradsen et al. 1984; Sarkar et al. 2011). First, the time series of daily minimum values of 500-hPa vertical wind velocity (e.g., omega at 500 hPa) over the northwest Pakistan region during JJAS of 2010 is extracted from each of the 10 members of a given set of experiments in Table 1. Second, these concatenated time series are considered as the sample of daily extremes for this particular set of experiments. As an illustration, the sample of daily minimum values of 500-hPa vertical wind velocity for the C-SST set contains 1220 time steps (122 days by 10 members). Finally, the two parameters (e.g., the shape and scale parameters) of the Weibull distribution (Rousu 1973; Justus et al. 1978) are estimated from this sample by using the maximum likelihood method at 95% confidence level (Bowden et al. 1983). As an illustration, we show in Fig. 2d, the histogram of these extreme values in the C-SST runs overlaid by the Weibull probability density function (PDF) fitted to this particular sample of daily minimum values of 500-hPa vertical wind velocity. The Weibull distribution fits well the form of the histogram because of its flexibility with two estimated parameters (e.g., shape and scale parameters). This demonstrates the usefulness of Weibull distribution fitting to model extreme daily upward velocity over northwest Pakistan during 2010 and to better describe synoptic-scale convective activity in our different sets of experiments.

3. AGCM experiments with observed SSTs

The spatial distributions of rainfall and vertically integrated moisture transport anomalies during the 2010 boreal summer (JJAS) in observations and the R-SST simulations are displayed in Fig. 3. The observed enhanced summer monsoon rainfall over northwest Indo-Pak region, equatorial west Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean is well simulated by the R-SST runs. The spatial correlation between the observed and simulated boreal summer rainfall anomalies (in the R-SST experiments) is as high as 0.45 for the domain 15°S–40°N, 50°–110°E and increased to 0.49 if the domain is extended farther east, up to 120°E. These correlations are significant at the 95% confidence level according to a Student’s t test. This suggests that the SST boundary conditions play a significant role in setting up the background atmospheric state associated with the heavy rainfall event over Pakistan during the 2010 boreal summer. The reduced amplitude of the rainfall anomalies over the northwest Indo-Pak region in the R-SST runs (Fig. 3b) may be due to the improper representation of midlatitude blocking during boreal summer of 2010 by the model (figure not shown). The anomalously weaker monsoon rainfall activity over central and eastern India, BoB, and adjoining areas of the South China Sea and Philippine Sea is also less pronounced in R-SST runs than in observations (Figs. 3a,b). However, important key features such as anomalous northward moisture transport in the Arabian Sea and Indo-Pak regions, westward penetration of anomalous easterlies over the southeastern Indian Ocean, and strong anomalous cyclonic circulation over the southeast Indian Ocean and Indo-Pak regions are well captured.

Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.

Rainfall (shaded; unit: mm day−1) and vertically integrated moisture transport (unit: Kg m−1 s−1) anomalies during boreal summer of 2010 for (a) TRMM rainfall (shaded) and NCEP moisture transport (vector) and (b) R-SST runs. For observations, rainfall (vertically integrated moisture transport) anomalies are computed from the base period 1998–2010 (1950–2010). The R-SST rainfall and vertically integrated moisture transport anomalies are relative to the climatology estimated from the C-SST runs.

Citation: Journal of Climate 28, 9; 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00595.1

The Weibull distribution diagnostic described in section 2 has been applied to the minimum daily midtropospheric (500 hPa) vertical velocity time series extracted from the northwest Pakistan region in the C-SST and R-SST runs (Fig. 4). First, as expected, we note that the R-SST simulations failed to reproduce the exact timing of the heavy rainfall events over the northwest Pakistan since the simulations were start from 16 May from random initial conditions. However, the significant contribution from SST anomalies to daily synoptic-scale convective activity over northwest Pakistan region during 2010 is well brought out by the elongated tail of the Weibull distribution for the R-SST simulations, which is the characteristic of a high probability of extreme convective activity at daily time scale during 2010. On the other hand, the tail of the Weibull distribution in case of the C-SST simulations is much shorter, with no values below −2.2 hPa s−1 (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.

Fitted Weibull PDF of minimum daily midtropospheric (500 hPa) vertical velocity (unit: Pa s−1) time series extracted from the northwest Pakistan region (30°–36°N, 70°–74°E) during JJAS for the C-SST (black), R-SST (blue), E-SST (red), NE-SST (green), and NE-IO-SST (purple) sets of experiments. The inset shows the details of the left tail of the PDFs, which describes the occurrence of extreme daily events in the simulations. The x axis is 500-hPa vertical velocity, and upward vertical velocity is negative. The y axis is probability density.

Citation: Journal of Climate 28, 9; 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00595.1

Focusing now on the tridimensional atmospheric circulation during 2010, the anomalously enhanced convection over north Arabian Sea and northwest Pakistan region (Fig. 3a) is associated with strong upward vertical velocity anomalies from low levels up to the tropopause level and seems to descend south of the equator (Fig. 5a). This anomalous meridional structure over the western part of the Indian domain is reasonably captured by the R-SST runs, though the sinking motion is slightly more to the south in model compared to observations (Fig. 5b). The positive SST anomalies over the southeast Indian Ocean associated with La Niña and the growing phase of negative IOD event (Figs. 1b,c) promote abundant local rainfall in both observations and R-SST runs (Figs. 3a,b). Interestingly, the upper-level outflow associated with these strong convection anomalies over the Maritime Continent and southeast Indian Ocean may also induce a strong modulation of the Indo-Pacific Walker circulation and local meridional cell in the eastern part of the Indian region in observations (Figs. 5c,e). It is noteworthy that the R-SST experiments simulate realistically the large-scale subsidence over the north BoB and eastern India, on one hand, and over the central and western Indian Ocean (to the west of the 80°E), on the other hand, which may be induced by the ascending branch over the southeast Indian Ocean (Figs. 5d,f). The large-scale subsidence over the Indian Ocean (to the west of 80°E and south of the equator) and the strong northward moisture transport over the north Arabian Sea and Indo-Pak region are consistent in both observations and the R-SST runs, amidst the weaker southwesterly flow in the simulations (Fig. 3b). This result is consistent with the findings of Mujumdar et al. (2012). Thus, despite of the fact that the R-SST simulations do not reproduce the observed midlatitude blocking during boreal summer of 2010, the observed seasonal rainfall and circulation anomalies, as well as the intense convective activity over northwest Pakistan, are surprisingly reasonably captured.

Fig. 5.
Fig. 5.

(a) North–south cross section of zonally averaged (60°–75°E) meridional and vertical wind anomalies over the west Indian Ocean (domain: 20°S–35°N) during JJAS of 2010 from NCEP. (b) As in (a), but for R-SST runs. (c) North–south cross section of zonally averaged (85°–110°E) meridional and vertical wind anomalies over the east Indian Ocean (domain: 20°S–40°N) during JJAS of 2010 from NCEP. (d) As in (c), but for R-SST runs. (e) East–west cross section of meridionally averaged (15°S–0°) zonal and vertical wind anomalies for the domain 30°–240°E during JJAS of 2010 from NCEP. (f) As in (e), but for R-SST runs. Upward vertical velocity is negative in all panels. The wind anomalies for the R-SST runs are relative to the climatology estimated from the C-SST runs. NCEP wind anomalies are computed from the 1950–2010 climatology. East–west circulation is plotted after removing the zonal mean from the circulation parameters.

Citation: Journal of Climate 28, 9; 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00595.1

To highlight the key physical processes involved in the anomalous rainfall distribution during 2010 and delineate the role of the various SST forcings (Figs. 1b,c), we will focus on the sensitivity experiments in the two following sections.

4. Sensitivity experiments with ENSO and ENSO-unrelated SST anomalies

The realistic simulation of subtropical rainfall anomalies over the Indo-Pak region and observed atmospheric circulation during 2010 by the R-SST runs further motivates us to distinguish the roles of ENSO and ENSO-unrelated SST patterns in promoting the Indo-Pak rainfall events with the help of the E-SST and NE-SST runs (see Table 1).

The possible role of the 2010 La Niña event in promoting Indo-Pak flood event was already suggested in previous studies (Hong et al. 2011; Mujumdar et al. 2012). As expected, the E-SST experiments simulate a prominent response over the tropical Pacific, such as a stronger east (suppressed)–west (enhanced) equatorial rainfall gradient, vigorous trade winds, and enhanced convection over northwest Pacific (Fig. 6a). Similarly, E-SST runs reproduce the observed anomalous easterly flow over central India, weakening of the monsoon trough, and associated decreased monsoon rainfall over north India. However, E-SST experiments fail to reproduce enhanced rainfall over Indo-Pak region at the seasonal time scale (Fig. 6a). In agreement with this result, the spatial correlation between the observed and simulated seasonal rainfall anomalies by E-SST runs is drastically decreased (e.g., 0.19) compared to R-SST experiments (domain used is again 15°S–40°N, 50°–110°E).

Fig. 6.
Fig. 6.

As in Fig. 3, but for rainfall and vertically integrated moisture transport anomalies during JJAS 2010 in (a) E-SST runs, (b) NE-SST runs, (c) NE-IO-SST runs.

Citation: Journal of Climate 28, 9; 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00595.1

Furthermore, Weibull distribution analysis is repeated here to understand how the extreme synoptic-scale convective activity over northwest Pakistan varies in the sensitivity experiments. The number of days with enhanced convective activity over the region is significantly decreased in E-SST runs compared to R-SST set of experiments (Fig. 4). The left tail of the Weibull distribution in the E-SST runs is even shorter than the one in the C-SST runs. Furthermore, the frequency count of extreme rain events over the northwest Pakistan region (e.g., greater than 95th percentile estimated from the C-SST daily rainfall values) is almost 3 times higher in R-SST runs compared to those of E-SST runs. These statistical analyses using rainfall and vertical velocity bring out the significant difference in extreme rainfall events in R-SST and E-SST runs and demonstrate that the ENSO SST forcing alone is not sufficient to promote extreme convective activity over northwest Pakistan. These disagreements between the E-SST and R-SST experiments are intriguing. It is therefore interesting to investigate the influence of the ENSO-unrelated SST patterns on subtropical Indo-Pak heavy rainfall with the help of the NE-SST and NE-IO-SST ensemble simulation experiments (see Table 1).

The observed suppressed rainfall associated with stronger anomalous easterly wind–induced moisture divergence over north India is not well reproduced by the NE-SST and NE-IO-SST runs, especially for the NE-SST set (Figs. 6b,c). These observed features are clearly due to the ENSO component to first order (Fig. 6a). Interestingly, the observed rainfall and moisture transport anomalies over Arabian Sea are reasonably captured by the NE-SST and NE-IO-SST experiments (Figs. 6b,c), while the E-SST runs fail to simulate these regional anomalies (Fig. 6a). Similarly, enhanced convection over the southeast Indian Ocean and suppressed convection over the central Indian Ocean and BoB are well captured in the NE-SST and NE-IO-SST runs (Figs. 6b,c). Because of these similarities, the spatial correlations of observed rainfall anomalies with the simulated rainfall anomalous patterns in the NE-SST and NE-IO-SST experiments are 0.22 and 0.27, respectively. These scores are higher than the one obtained from the E-SST experiments (e.g., 0.19), which fails to capture the subsidence over the central and western Indian Ocean.

Furthermore, the key influence of Indian Ocean SST anomalies unrelated to ENSO in promoting the occurrence of extreme rainfall events over northwest Pakistan is also illustrated by the Weibull diagnostic applied to the NE-SST and NE-IO-SST runs (Fig. 4). The interesting feature of the probability density curve in case of the NE-SST and NE-IO-SST experiments is its elongated tail compared to the E-SST runs, tending to the one found in the R-SST runs, which indicates a higher probability of extreme daily upward motion over the northwest Pakistan region, evolving from deep convection induced by lower-level moisture convergence (Fig. 4). This elongated tail, which characterizes the occurrence of intense convective activity at the daily time scale, is highlighted in the inset of the Fig. 4. We have also confirmed that total count of extreme rainy days during monsoon season is generally higher in NE-SST and NE-IO-SST runs relative to C-SST and E-SST ensembles (figure not shown).

All these results bring out the key role of ENSO-unrelated SST anomalies and, in particular, highlight the significant influence of intrinsic Indian Ocean variability in the amplification and sustenance of extreme rainfall events over the subtropical Indo-Pak region. The next section investigates the physical mechanisms explaining the key role of ENSO-unrelated SST anomalies over the Indian Ocean on the northward moisture transport over the Arabian Sea during 2010.

5. Mechanisms for moisture convergence over the northwest Pakistan during 2010

Here an attempt is made to understand how various SST boundary forcings may have contributed to the anomalous moisture transport over northwest Pakistan and promoted heavy rainfall events of 2010. In particular, it would be worth analyzing the role of the zonal asymmetry of convection over the equatorial Indian Ocean (Fig. 3a) in modulating northward moisture transport over the Arabian Sea and the northwest Pakistan region. For this purpose, stream and potential functions of vertically integrated (from the surface to 300 hPa) moisture flux anomalies were decomposed into irrotational and rotational components, in the different sets of simulations (Chen 1985; Krishnan 1998). These functions provide a concise description of spatial distributions of moisture convergence and moisture transport, respectively, for 2010 boreal summer in simulation experiments.

We first try to get a better understanding of the physical mechanism responsible for the local maintenance of high water vapor content over northwest Pakistan during 2010 by using the potential of integrated moisture transport anomalies and its divergent component in R-SST, E-SST, and NE-SST sets of simulations (Fig. 7). The statistically significant regions at the 95% confidence level are marked in these figures. Since the results for NE-SST and NE-IO-SST ensembles are very similar, here we discuss NE-SST results only. The divergent component of vertically integrated moisture flux in R-SST and E-SST simulations are very similar and exhibit a strong moisture convergence over the Indian Ocean and Maritime Continent and large-scale moisture divergence over the central Pacific (Figs. 7a,b). On the other hand, NE-SST simulations suggest that the moisture converges primarily toward southeast Indian Ocean and Maritime Continent and secondarily toward the north Arabian Sea and northwest Pakistan areas (Fig. 7c). This suggests that the zonal component of divergent moisture transport during 2010 is mostly accounted by the modulation of the Walker circulation and the westward shift of zonal circulation associated with the strong La Niña event and the related Indian Ocean warming (Fig. 8d). Interestingly, the southeast–northwest tilted orientation of the region of anomalous moisture convergence over the Indian domain in the R-SST simulations (Fig. 7a) seems to be mostly maintained by ENSO-unrelated SST variability over the Indian Ocean. Hence, this SST pattern may have contributed to the modulation of the local meridional and zonal circulations over the Indian Ocean (Figs. 8a,c). More specifically, the enhanced convection over the southeastern Indian Ocean (Fig. 3a) associated with the growing phase of negative IOD event (Figs. 1c and 6b,c) is well marked by anomalous moisture convergence, which is statistically significant at the 95% confidence level in the NE-SST runs (Fig. 7c). This region of intense convection extends eastward over the Maritime Continent, while its western counterpart, the region of suppressed convection over the western and central Indian Ocean (see Figs. 3a and 6b,c), coincides with a region of moisture divergence (Fig. 7c). In other words, the zonal gradient of SST over the Indian Ocean in the NE-SST runs seems to induce moisture convergence and ascending motion over southeastern Indian Ocean and, in turn, moisture divergence and descent over the western and central equatorial Indian Ocean (Fig. 8c; see Lindzen and Nigam 1987).

Fig. 7.
Fig. 7.

JJAS anomalies of potential function (unit: 107 Kg s−1) and divergent component of vertically integrated water vapor transport vector (Kg m−1 s−1) for (a) R-SST runs, (b) E-SST runs, and (c) NE-SST runs. Water vapor transport vectors are vertically integrated from the surface to 300 hPa. The potential function and divergent component of vertically integrated water vapor transport vectors are estimated on a global domain but are shown here only over the region of interest (Chen 1985; Krishnan 1998). The anomalies are computed from the JJAS climatology of potential function and divergent component of vertically integrated water vapor transport in the C-SST runs. Anomalies significant at the 95% confidence level (using a Student two-tailed test) are dotted.

Citation: Journal of Climate 28, 9; 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00595.1

Fig. 8.
Fig. 8.

(a) North–south cross section of zonally averaged (60°–75°E) meridional and vertical wind anomalies over the west Indian Ocean (domain: 20°S–35°N) during JJAS of 2010 for NE-SST runs. (b) As in (a), but for E-SST runs. (c) East–west cross section of meridionally averaged (15°S–0°) zonal and vertical wind anomalies for the domain 30°–240°E during JJAS of 2010 for NE-SST runs. (d) As in (c), but for E-SST runs. Upward vertical velocity is negative in all panels. The wind anomalies for the NE-SST and E-SST runs are relative to the climatology estimated from the C-SST runs.

Citation: Journal of Climate 28, 9; 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00595.1

It is also interesting to note that the conventional region of moisture divergence over the central Arabian Sea (Saha and Bavedekar 1973; Rao and Van de Boogard 1981; Cadet and Reverdin 1981) is dominated by significant moisture convergence during the 2010 summer in NE-SST simulations. This helps to maintain the tilted configuration of the potential fields over the Indian domain in the R-SST simulations (Figs. 7a,c). The positive meridional SST gradient between the north Arabian Sea (15°–25°N, 60°–70°E) and the western equatorial Indian Ocean (5°S–7°N, 55°–70°E) (see Fig. 1c), together with the moisture divergence over the equatorial Indian Ocean (Fig. 7c), might have contributed to the enhanced moisture convergence over north Arabian Sea in the NE-SST runs (Fig. 6c). Upward motion overlies this region of moisture convergence and enhanced rainfall (over the north Arabian Sea and adjacent areas), while subsidence coincides with the region of moisture divergence in the NE-SST runs (Fig. 8a). On the other hand, E-SST runs depict a strong ascent over the equatorial Indian Ocean with a descent over northwest Pakistan region (Fig. 8b), which is significantly different from the R-SST experiment (Fig. 5b). These results further highlight the important role of intrinsic Indian Ocean SST anomalies on northward moisture transport over the Arabian Sea through the modulation of convergent and divergent zones by the SST gradients in the NE-SST runs.

The streamfunction and the rotational component of the integrated moisture flux anomalies may be used to illustrate how the water vapor transport is maintained in the simulations (Fig. 9). It is apparent that the large-scale patterns of streamfunction and rotational component of moisture transport during 2010 are largely contributed by the ENSO-related SST anomalies, as demonstrated by the strong similarities between the potential fields in the R-SST and E-SST sets of simulations (e.g., cf. Figs. 9a–c). In particular, the strong and large-scale southeast–northwest orientation of streamfunction over the Indo-Pacific domain displayed in Figs. 9a,b reflects a strong anticyclonic structure over the BoB and central India, resulting in suppressed convection over the region (Fig. 1b), which seems to be induced by the ENSO-related SST anomalies, This is in agreement with the result of Mujumdar et al. (2012). At the same time, the R-SST and E-SST runs depict an anomalous southeasterly moisture transport over the northwest Pakistan region, which is consistent with the results of Hong et al. (2011). However, E-SST experiment failed to capture enhanced rainfall activity over the northwest Pakistan region (Fig. 6a).

Fig. 9.
Fig. 9.

JJAS anomalies of streamfunction (unit: 107 Kg s−1) and rotational component of vertically integrated water vapor transport vector (Kg m−1 s−1) for (a) R-SST runs, (b) E-SST runs, and (c) NE-SST runs. Anomalies significant at the 95% confidence level (using a Student two-tailed test) are dotted.

Citation: Journal of Climate 28, 9; 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00595.1

On the other hand, the streamfunction and rotational component computed from moisture flux anomalies in the NE-SST experiments exhibit a four-cell structure over the Indian domain. It is evident from the comparison between Figs. 9a–c that this cellular pattern of streamfunction in the NE-SST simulation, which is related to intrinsic Indian Ocean variability, is significantly weaker in intensity compared to the moisture transport induced by the ENSO-related SST variability and that the large-scale features of the streamfunction in the R-SST and E-SST simulations are very similar. However, the strengthening of anomalous anticyclonic circulation over central India and the Arabian Sea in the NE-SST runs is remarkable (Fig. 9c). This phenomenon intensifies the northwestward shift of anomalous moisture transport over the Indo-Pacific sector prevailing during the La Niña episode of 2010 (Figs. 9a,c). Furthermore, the southwesterly flank of this anomalous anticyclonic circulation (Fig. 9c), together with the regional divergent component of moisture flux (Fig. 7c), seems to promote strong northward moisture transport over the Arabian Sea. This northward moisture transport from the Arabian Sea into the subtropical Indo-Pak sector enhances the high water vapor content and the convection over the region, as illustrated in Figs. 3a and 6b. Finally, it is interesting to observe that both the R-SST and NE-SST simulations display northward moisture transport over the Arabian Sea, a feature that is remarkably absent in the E-SST simulations, which show an anomalous cyclonic cell over the Arabian Sea during 2010.

In other words, both the ENSO-related and intrinsic Indian Ocean SST variabilities may have contributed to maintain the unusual moisture transport into northwest Pakistan and adjacent areas during the boreal summer of 2010.

6. Conclusions and discussion

The devastating floods over northwest Pakistan and adjacent north Indian region during 2010 summer monsoon had a severe impact on the society. Moreover, similar phenomena were observed in 2011 and 2012. Various scientific aspects of these subtropical extreme rainfall events were unraveled by previous studies such as their potential predictability, the influence of southward intrusion of midlatitude systems, or westward shift of large-scale circulation (Houze et al. 2011; Webster et al. 2011; Hong et al. 2011; Mujumdar et al. 2012). Yet, the specific role of Indo-Pacific SST evolution in the occurrence of these extreme events is unclear from the previous studies and is difficult to assess from observations alone. In this study, the key role of Indo-Pacific SST forcing in the occurrence and intensity of subtropical Indo-Pak extreme rainfall episodes is explored through different sets of sensitivity experiments with a very high-resolution AGCM forced by observed, ENSO, and ENSO-unrelated SST anomalies during boreal spring and summer of 2010.

Our first important result is that summer monsoon 2010 simulations using a very high-resolution AGCM and observed SSTs could realistically capture the large-scale features associated with these subtropical Indo-Pak extreme rainfall events, except the midlatitude atmospheric blocking. Furthermore, the more frequent occurrence of extreme synoptic-scale convective activity over northwest Pakistan region during 2010 is also well captured by the simulations using observed SST boundary conditions, even though the timing of these events is different in the simulations. Overall, these findings suggest that the tropical Indo-Pacific SST anomalies are an important factor in determining the heavy precipitation over northwest Pakistan and adjacent Indian region. These results are surprising because AGCM experiments with prescribed SSTs over the Indian Ocean are known to be subject to uncertainties related to inconsistency between latent heat flux and SST over the warm pool regions that may lead to spurious atmospheric response particularly during boreal summer (Wu and Kirtman 2004).

The realistic simulation of the background atmospheric state associated with 2010 Indo-Pak extreme rainfall events, using real-time SST boundary conditions, motivated us to explore the specific influence of ENSO and ENSO-unrelated SST variations through additional atmospheric experiments. These unique sensitivity experiments use ENSO and ENSO-unrelated SST boundary conditions derived from the inverse linear modeling approach of Compo and Sardeshmukh (2010). As expected, the simulations using ENSO-related SST anomalies during 2010 display a westward shift in the large-scale monsoon circulation, a significant weakening of convection over the BoB and central India, and anomalous southeasterly moisture transport into the northwest Pakistan region. However, Indo-Pak heavy rainfall anomalies are poorly simulated in these experiments, suggesting that the success of the R-SST simulations is not only due to ENSO forcing but also ENSO-unrelated SST variability during 2010.

Simulation experiments, carried out using ENSO-unrelated SST anomalies, exemplify the suppression of convection over central and western equatorial Indian Ocean, through the subsiding branch of enhanced convection over southeast Indian Ocean and the modulation of the large-scale monsoon circulation as key factors for enhancing the northward moisture transport over the Arabian Sea and northwest Pakistan regions during the boreal summer of 2010. The enhanced convection over the southeast Indian Ocean seems to be related to the growth of the negative IOD event peaking during the fall of 2010 (Horii et al. 2013). This ENSO-unrelated forcing also amplifies the weakening of convective activities over the BoB and thereby supports modulation of large-scale monsoon circulation. Furthermore, the similarities between the NE-SST and NE-IO-SST sets of experiments point specifically to the importance of the intrinsic Indian Ocean SST variability in the occurrence of heavy rainfall events over northwest Pakistan during 2010. It is very surprising that the intense convective activity over the northwest Indo-Pak region at the daily time scale, represented here by midtropospheric vertical velocity, is better simulated by ENSO-unrelated forcing as compared to that of ENSO forcing. Thus, the ENSO forced westward shift of large-scale circulation over the Indo-Pacific sector may not be sufficient in promoting the subtropical Indo-Pak intense convective activity during 2010.

However, a detailed analysis of the stream and potential functions of vertically integrated moisture transport in various sets of simulations suggests that the success of R-SST simulations in reproducing the high frequency of heavy rainfall events over northwest Pakistan during the boreal summer of 2010 is due to the combined influence of ENSO and ENSO-unrelated SST forcings. Both types of SST boundary forcing interact and play a significant role in the buildup of high water vapor content in northwest Indo-Pak region during 2010.

Overall, this study points to the key role of intrinsic Indian Ocean SST anomalies in inducing the northward moisture transport over the Arabian Sea and subtropical Indo-Pak region in the background of the modulated large-scale Indo-Pacific summer monsoon circulation by Pacific SST anomalies during 2010. Thus, our results highlight the importance of a detailed monitoring of Indian Ocean variability and conditions, through dedicated observation systems, for improving the accuracy of “extended range” prediction of future heavy rainfall events over South Asia, which are projected to be more frequent in the future warming climate (Trenberth 2012; Menon et al. 2013).

It may be worth exploring how regional air–sea coupled interactions might have modulated the background flow during 2010 boreal summer, which is an issue that could not be addressed in our forced modeling framework. This could be scope for future study using coupled atmosphere–ocean models, which may give better insight into the complex air–sea processes over the Indian Ocean, associated with heavy rainfall events. Finally, the reasonable success of the LMDZ AGCM in reproducing the complex features of the monsoon circulation during 2010 from the SST boundary forcing alone highlights that such global climate model, with a telescopic zoom over a specific region, may be successfully used to produce improved regional climate change projections worldwide (based on CMIP5 simulations) in the framework of the ongoing Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX South Asia; http://cccr.tropmet.res.in/cordex/index.jsp).

Acknowledgments

The authors thank the Director of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM, Pune) for extending all support for this research work. IITM receives full financial support from the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Government of India. Pascal Terray is a visiting scientist at IITM and fully funded by Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD, France). Authors acknowledge the fruitful discussions with Prof. Toshio Yamagata. Authors PP, MM, and RK would like to thank the NORINDIA project (Project 216576/e10) for providing partial financial support for this work. Partial financial support from IRD (France) is also acknowledged. The authors are thankful for the anonymous reviewers and the editor, Dr. Renguang Wu, for providing helpful reviews. We acknowledge Dr. Sandeep S, NYU, for facilitating the ENSO-filtered data access from Drs. Compo and Sardeshmukh. The LMD/IPSL Paris is acknowledged for providing the LMDZ and support.

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