Tropical Circulations Associated with Southwest Monsoon Onset and Westerly Surges over the South China Sea

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California
  • 2 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, National Taiwan University, Taìpei, Taiwan, Republic of China
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Abstract

The earliest onset of the Asian summer monsoon occurs in early to middle May over the South China Sea. This onset is signified by the development of low-level westerlies and leads to heavy convective rainfall over southern China (pre-Mei-Yu). In June, low-level westerly surges over the northern South China Sea are associated with the Mei-Yu rainfall system in the Yangtze region and southern Japan. In this work, the ECMWF data for 1981–86 are used to study the tropical circulations associated with the development of low-level westerlies during both events.

Composites of horizontal wind, geopotential height, moisture, and vertical velocity during six May onsets and nine June surges, respectively, indicate that both events occur with the approach of a midlatitude trough–front system. The possible triggering of the South China Sea summer monsoon onset by the midlatitude system may explain why the South China Sea onset occurs prior to other regions of the Asian monsoon. During boreal spring, this is the only Asian monscon region where midlatitude fronts can move into the Tropics without having to overcome significant terrain barriers.

Following the two events, opposite teleconnection-like patterns develop in the Tropics in both hemispheres. During the May onsets, the arrival of the midlatitude trough/front appears to lead to a southwestward extension of a cyclogenesis zone into the equatorial Indian Ocean. Along this zone, cyclonic vortices develop over.the Andaman Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and perhaps the southern equatorial Indian Ocean, and increased deep convection is indicated by the OLR composites. During the June surges, a pair of anticyclones develop straddling the equator at the longitudes of Indochina. This anticyclonic couplet is associated with decreased deep convection and propagates westward to dominate the flow changes over.the Bay of Bengal and the southern Indian Ocean. The steady 4–5 m s−1 westward speed and near-perfect symmetry with respect to the equator indicate the possibility of an equatorial Rossby wave generation in conjunction with the June westerly surges in the northern South China Sea.

Abstract

The earliest onset of the Asian summer monsoon occurs in early to middle May over the South China Sea. This onset is signified by the development of low-level westerlies and leads to heavy convective rainfall over southern China (pre-Mei-Yu). In June, low-level westerly surges over the northern South China Sea are associated with the Mei-Yu rainfall system in the Yangtze region and southern Japan. In this work, the ECMWF data for 1981–86 are used to study the tropical circulations associated with the development of low-level westerlies during both events.

Composites of horizontal wind, geopotential height, moisture, and vertical velocity during six May onsets and nine June surges, respectively, indicate that both events occur with the approach of a midlatitude trough–front system. The possible triggering of the South China Sea summer monsoon onset by the midlatitude system may explain why the South China Sea onset occurs prior to other regions of the Asian monsoon. During boreal spring, this is the only Asian monscon region where midlatitude fronts can move into the Tropics without having to overcome significant terrain barriers.

Following the two events, opposite teleconnection-like patterns develop in the Tropics in both hemispheres. During the May onsets, the arrival of the midlatitude trough/front appears to lead to a southwestward extension of a cyclogenesis zone into the equatorial Indian Ocean. Along this zone, cyclonic vortices develop over.the Andaman Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and perhaps the southern equatorial Indian Ocean, and increased deep convection is indicated by the OLR composites. During the June surges, a pair of anticyclones develop straddling the equator at the longitudes of Indochina. This anticyclonic couplet is associated with decreased deep convection and propagates westward to dominate the flow changes over.the Bay of Bengal and the southern Indian Ocean. The steady 4–5 m s−1 westward speed and near-perfect symmetry with respect to the equator indicate the possibility of an equatorial Rossby wave generation in conjunction with the June westerly surges in the northern South China Sea.

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