Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Wu, Q., and Q. Hu (2015), Atmospheric circulation processes contributing to a multidecadal variation in reconstructed and modeled Indian monsoon precipitation, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 120, 532–551, doi:10.1002/ 2014JD022499.


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An analysis of the recently reconstructed gridded May–September total precipitation in the Indian monsoon region for the past half millennium discloses significant variations at multidecadal timescales. Meanwhile, paleo-climate modeling outputs from the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Climate System Model 4.0 show similar multidecadal variations in the monsoon precipitation. One of those variations at the frequency of 40–50 years per cycle is examined in this study. Major results show that this variation is a product of the processes in that the meridional gradient of the atmospheric enthalpy is strengthened by radiation loss in the high-latitude and polar region. Driven by this gradient and associated baroclinicity in the atmosphere, more heat/energy is generated in the tropical and subtropical (monsoon) region and transported poleward. This transport relaxes the meridional enthalpy gradient and, subsequently, the need for heat production in the monsoon region. The multidecadal timescale of these processes results from atmospheric circulation-radiation interactions and the inefficiency in generation of kinetic energy from the potential energy in the atmosphere to drive the eddies that transport heat poleward. This inefficiency creates a time delay between the meridional gradient of the enthalpy and the poleward transport. The monsoon precipitation variation lags that in the meridional gradient of enthalpy but leads that of the poleward heat transport. This phase relationship, and underlining chasing process by the transport of heat to the need for it driven by the meridional enthalpy gradient, sustains this multidecadal variation. This mechanism suggests that atmospheric circulation processes can contribute to multidecadal timescale variations. Interactions of these processes with other forcing, such as sea surface temperature or solar irradiance anomalies, can result in resonant or suppressed variations in the Indian monsoon precipitation.