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Moisture variability over the Indo-Pacific region and its influence on the Indian summer monsoon rainfall

Abstract

The Indo-Pacific Ocean (i.e. region between 30°E and 150°E) has been experiencing a warming since the 1950s. At the same time, the large-scale summer monsoon rainfall over India and the moisture over the East Africa/Arabian Sea are both decreasing. In this study, we intend to investigate how the decrease of moisture over the East Africa/Arabian Sea is related to the Indo-Pacific Ocean warming and how this could affect the variability of the Indian summer monsoon rainfall. We performed the analysis for the period 1951–2012 based on observed precipitation, sea surface temperature and atmospheric reanalysis products and we verified the robustness of the result by comparing different datasets. The decreasing trend of moisture over the East Africa/Arabian Sea coincides with an increasing trend of moisture over the western Pacific region. This is accompanied by the strengthening (weakening) of the upward motion over the western Pacific (East Africa/Arabian Sea) that, consequently, contributes to modulate the western Pacific-Indian Ocean Walker circulation. At the same time, the low-level westerlies are weakening over the peninsular India, thus contributing to the reduction of moisture transport towards India. Therefore, rainfall has decreased over the Western Ghats and central-east India. Contrary to previous decades, since 2003 moisture over the East Africa/Arabian Sea started to increase and this is accompanied by the strengthening of convection due to increased warming of sea surface temperature over the western Arabian Sea. Despite this moisture increase over the Arabian Sea, we found that moisture transport is still weakening over the Indian landmass in the very recent decade and this has been contributing to the decreased precipitation over the northeast India and southern part of the Western Ghats.

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Acknowledgments

We are thankful to the two anonymous reviewers that helped improving the manuscript from its original version. We thank NCEP, ECMWF and JMA for providing the respective reanalysis data in their website. HadISST, ERSST, COBE SST, ICOADS SST, PREC/L, GPCC, GPCP data provided by the NOAA/OAR/ESRL PSD, Boulder, Colorado, USA, from their Web site at http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/. The financial support of the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, and Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea through the project GEMINA and that of INDO-MARECLIM (Project No. 295092) coordination and support action are gratefully acknowledged.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Ratna, S.B., Cherchi, A., Joseph, P.V. et al. Moisture variability over the Indo-Pacific region and its influence on the Indian summer monsoon rainfall. Clim Dyn 46, 949–965 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-015-2624-z

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Keywords

  • Indian summer monsoon
  • Indian Ocean warming
  • Arabian Sea
  • Moisture
  • Indo-Pacific
  • Walker cell