Climate Dynamics

, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 1543–1557 | Cite as

Pacific Ocean sea-surface temperature variability and predictability of rainfall in the early and late parts of the Indian summer monsoon season

  • Balaji Rajagopalan
  • Peter Molnar


For central India and its west coast, rainfall in the early (15 May–20 June) and late (15 September–20 October) monsoon season correlates with Pacific Ocean sea-surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the preceding month (April and August, respectively) sufficiently well, that those SST anomalies can be used to predict such rainfall. The patterns of SST anomalies that correlate best include the equatorial region near the dateline, and for the early monsoon season (especially since ~1980), a band of opposite correlation stretching from near the equator at 120°E to ~25°N at the dateline. Such correlations for both early and late monsoon rainfall and for both regions approach, if not exceed, 0.5. Although correlations between All India Summer Monsoon Rainfall and typical indices for the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) commonly are stronger for the period before than since 1980, these correlations with early and late monsoon seasons suggest that ENSO continues to affect the monsoon in these seasons. We exploit these patterns to assess predictability, and we find that SSTs averages in specified regions of the Pacific Ocean in April (August) offer predictors that can forecast rainfall amounts in the early (late) monsoon season period with a ~25% improvement in skill relative to climatology. The same predictors offer somewhat less skill (~20% better than climatology) for predicting the number of days in these periods with rainfall greater than 2.5 mm. These results demonstrate that although the correlation of ENSO indices with All India Rainfall has decreased during the past few decades, the connections with ENSO in the early and late parts have not declined; that for the early monsoon season, in fact, has grown stronger in recent decades.


Indian summer monsoon Onset and withdrawal Tropical Pacific SST-monsoon teleconnections 



We thank B. N. Goswami for providing an updated list of onset and withdrawal dates, K. Krishna Kumar for helpful discussions, W. R. Boos for constructive criticism of a preliminary version of the manuscript, and comments by B.N. Goswami and an anonymous reviewer. This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under grants EAR-0507730 and EAR-0909199.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil Environmental and Architectural EngineeringUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental SciencesUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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