Climate Dynamics

, Volume 40, Issue 1–2, pp 187–211 | Cite as

Will the South Asian monsoon overturning circulation stabilize any further?

  • R. KrishnanEmail author
  • T. P. Sabin
  • D. C. Ayantika
  • A. Kitoh
  • M. Sugi
  • H. Murakami
  • A. G. Turner
  • J. M. Slingo
  • K. Rajendran


Understanding the response of the South Asian monsoon (SAM) system to global climate change is an interesting scientific problem that has enormous implications from the societal viewpoint. While the CMIP3 projections of future changes in monsoon precipitation used in the IPCC AR4 show major uncertainties, there is a growing recognition that the rapid increase of moisture in a warming climate can potentially enhance the stability of the large-scale tropical circulations. In this work, the authors have examined the stability of the SAM circulation based on diagnostic analysis of climate datasets over the past half century; and addressed the issue of likely future changes in the SAM in response to global warming using simulations from an ultra-high resolution (20 km) global climate model. Additional sensitivity experiments using a simplified atmospheric model have been presented to supplement the overall findings. The results here suggest that the intensity of the boreal summer monsoon overturning circulation and the associated southwesterly monsoon flow have significantly weakened during the past 50-years. The weakening trend of the monsoon circulation is further corroborated by a significant decrease in the frequency of moderate-to-heavy monsoon rainfall days and upward vertical velocities particularly over the narrow mountain ranges of the Western Ghats. Based on simulations from the 20-km ultra high-resolution model, it is argued that a stabilization (weakening) of the summer monsoon Hadley-type circulation in response to global warming can potentially lead to a weakened large-scale monsoon flow thereby resulting in weaker vertical velocities and reduced orographic precipitation over the narrow Western Ghat mountains by the end of the twenty-first century. Supplementary experiments using a simplified atmospheric model indicate a high sensitivity of the large-scale monsoon circulation to atmospheric stability in comparison with the effects of condensational heating.


South Asian monsoon Global climate change Stability of monsoon circulation Orographic precipitation response Western Ghats 



RK, TPS and DCA thank Prof. B.N. Goswami for extending all support for this research work. RK and KR acknowledge the support provided by the Kakushin program of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Meteorological Research Institute (MRI) and the Advanced Earth Science and Technology Organization (AESTO) towards their short-term collaborative visit to the MRI, Japan. A. G. Turner is supported by a NERC Postdoctoral Fellowship grant NE/H015655/1 and was previously funded under the EU-ENSEMBLES project; he wishes to thank Dr. Ian Culverwell at the UK Met Office for providing the basis for the back trajectory code. Finally, we are very grateful to the two anonymous reviewers for providing valuable comments that have helped us to significantly improve the quality of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Krishnan
    • 1
    Email author
  • T. P. Sabin
    • 1
  • D. C. Ayantika
    • 1
  • A. Kitoh
    • 2
  • M. Sugi
    • 3
  • H. Murakami
    • 3
  • A. G. Turner
    • 4
  • J. M. Slingo
    • 5
  • K. Rajendran
    • 6
  1. 1.Centre for Climate Change ResearchIndian Institute of Tropical MeteorologyPuneIndia
  2. 2.Meteorological Research InstituteTsukubaJapan
  3. 3.Research Institute for Global ChangeJapan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and TechnologyYokohamaJapan
  4. 4.NCAS-Climate, Department of MeteorologyUniversity of ReadingReadingUK
  5. 5.Met OfficeExeterUK
  6. 6.CSIR Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer SimulationBangaloreIndia

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