, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 1183-1195
Date: 28 Mar 2012

Revisiting Asian monsoon formation and change associated with Tibetan Plateau forcing: II. Change

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Abstract

Data analysis based on station observations reveals that many meteorological variables averaged over the Tibetan Plateau (TP) are closely correlated, and their trends during the past decades are well correlated with the rainfall trend of the Asian summer monsoon. However, such correlation does not necessarily imply causality. Further diagnosis confirms the existence of a weakening trend in TP thermal forcing, characterized by weakened surface sensible heat flux in spring and summer during the past decades. This weakening trend is associated with decreasing summer precipitation over northern South Asia and North China and increasing precipitation over northwestern China, South China, and Korea. An atmospheric general circulation model, the HadAM3, is employed to elucidate the causality between the weakening TP forcing and the change in the Asian summer monsoon rainfall. Results demonstrate that a weakening in surface sensible heating over the TP results in reduced summer precipitation in the plateau region and a reduction in the associated latent heat release in summer. These changes in turn result in the weakening of the near-surface cyclonic circulation surrounding the plateau and the subtropical anticyclone over the subtropical western North Pacific, similar to the results obtained from the idealized TP experiment in Part I of this study. The southerly that normally dominates East Asia, ranging from the South China Sea to North China, weakens, resulting in a weaker equilibrated Sverdrup balance between positive vorticity generation and latent heat release. Consequently, the convergence of water vapor transport is confined to South China, forming a unique anomaly pattern in monsoon rainfall, the so-called “south wet and north dry.” Because the weakening trend in TP thermal forcing is associated with global warming, the present results provide an effective means for assessing projections of regional climate over Asia in the context of global warming.

This paper is a contribution to the special issue on Global Monsoon Climate, a product of the Global Monsoon Working Group of the Past Global Changes (PAGES) project, coordinated by Pinxian Wang, Bin Wang, and Thorsten Kiefer.