Western Himalayan snow cover and Indian monsoon rainfall: A re-examination with INSAT and NCEP/NCAR data
- Cite this article as:
- Kripalani, R., Kulkarni, A. & Sabade, S. Theor. Appl. Climatol. (2003) 74: 1. doi:10.1007/s00704-002-0699-z
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¶This study presents the monthly climatology and variability of the INSAT (Indian National Satellite) derived snow cover estimates over the western Himalayan region. The winter/spring snow estimates over the region are related to the subsequent summer monsoon rainfall over India. The NCEP/NCAR data are used to understand the physical mechanism of the snow-monsoon links. 15 years (1986–2000) of recent data are utilized to investigate these features in the present global warming environment.
Results reveal that the spring snow cover area has been declining and snow has been melting faster from winter to spring after 1993. Connections between snow cover estimates and Indian monsoon rainfall (IMR) show that spring snow cover area is negatively related with maximum during May, while snow melt during the February–May period is positively related with subsequent IMR, implying that smaller snow cover area during May and faster snow melt from winter to spring is conducive for good monsoon activity over India. NCEP/NCAR data further shows that the heat low over northwest India and the monsoon circulation over the Indian subcontinent, in particular the cross-equatorial flow, during May are intensified (weakened) when the snow cover area during May is smaller (extensive) and snow melts faster (slower) during the February–May period.
The well-documented negative relationship between winter snow and summer rainfall seems to have altered recently and changed to a positive relationship. The changes observed in snow cover extent and snow depth due to global warming may be a possible cause for the weakening winter snow–IMR relationship.