Using idealized snow forcing to test teleconnections with the Indian summer monsoon in the Hadley Centre GCM
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- Turner, A.G. & Slingo, J.M. Clim Dyn (2011) 36: 1717. doi:10.1007/s00382-010-0805-3
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Anomalous heavy snow during winter or spring has long been regarded as a possible precursor of deficient Indian monsoon rainfall during the subsequent summer. However previous work in this field is inconclusive, in terms of the mechanism that communicates snow anomalies to the monsoon summer, and even the region from which snow has the most impact. In this study we explore these issues in coupled and atmosphere-only versions of the Hadley Centre model. A 1050-year control integration of the HadCM3 coupled model, which well represents the seasonal cycle of snow cover over the Eurasian continent, is analysed and shows evidence for weakened monsoons being preceded by strong snow forcing (in the absence of ENSO) over either the Himalaya/Tibetan Plateau or north/west Eurasia regions. However, empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis of springtime interannual variability in snow depth shows the leading mode to have opposite signs between these two regions, suggesting that competing mechanisms may be possible. To determine the dominant region, ensemble integrations are carried out using HadAM3, the atmospheric component of HadCM3, and a variety of anomalous snow forcing initial conditions obtained from the control integration of the coupled model. Forcings are applied during spring in separate experiments over the Himalaya/Tibetan Plateau and north/west Eurasia regions, in conjunction with climatological SSTs in order to avoid the direct effects of ENSO. With the aid of idealized forcing conditions in sensitivity tests, we demonstrate that forcing from the Himalaya region is dominant in this model via a Blanford-type mechanism involving reduced surface sensible heat and longwave fluxes, reduced heating of the troposphere over the Tibetan Plateau and consequently a reduced meridional tropospheric temperature gradient which weakens the monsoon during early summer. Snow albedo is shown to be key to the mechanism, explaining around 50% of the perturbation in sensible heating over the Tibetan Plateau, and accounting for the majority of cooling through the troposphere.