Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Sciences

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 75–83 | Cite as

An investigation of reduced western disturbance activity over Northwest India in November - December 2015 compared to 2014 - A case study

  • Soumik BasuEmail author
  • Peter A. Bieniek
  • Akshay Deoras


In November-December of 2015, Northwestern India received very low precipitation due to anomalously low Western Disturbances (WDs) activity. The resulting lack of sufficient precipitation and soil moisture hampered the growth of winter crops leading to significant agricultural losses. Relatively stable weather in the absence of precipitation and WDs contributed to extremely high air pollution in New Delhi and also significantly degraded the air quality in many cities of Northwestern India leading to severe health issues. Despite the fact that WDs play a very important role in India’s winter weather, limited research has been done to investigate the causes of their inter-annual variability. A case study using NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis, CMAP precipitation and NOAA Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature data is evaluated in this paper to better understand the atmospheric drivers of WDs in order to help fill the gap in knowledge. Results show that elevated Sea Surface Temperatures over the North Indian Ocean likely lead to atmospheric circulation anomalies that led to branching and weakening of the subtropical jet stream and weakening of vertical wind shear over Northwestern India. These conditions created an unfavorable environment for the propagation of WDs. However, there was an intensification of vertical wind shear over mid-latitude Eurasia along with increased storm activity. This weakened the Eurasian anticyclone resulting in warmer surface air temperatures over the midlatitudes that led to a redistribution of the meridional temperature gradient.

Key words

Western Disturbances precipitation Northwest India climate sea surface temperature Jet stream 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Agnihotri, C. L., and M. S. V. Singh, 1982: Satellite study of western disturbances. Mausam, 33, 249–254.Google Scholar
  2. Alford, D., R. Armstrong, and A. Racoviteanu, 2010: Glacier retreat in the Nepal Himalaya: An assessment of the role of glaciers in the hydrologic regime of the Nepal Himalaya. A report to South Asia Sustainable Development (SASDN) Office, Environment and Water Resources Unit, The World Bank, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  3. Chand, R., and C. Singh, 2015: Movements of western disturbance and associated cloud convection. J. Ind. Geophys. Union., 19, 62–70.Google Scholar
  4. Dhar, O. N., A. K. Kulkarni, and E. B. Sangam, 1984: Some aspects of winter and monsoon rainfall distribution over the Garhwal-Kumaon Himalayas—a brief appraisal. Himal. Res. Dev., 2, 10–19.Google Scholar
  5. Dimri, A. P., 2006: Surface and upper air fields during extreme winter precipitation over the western Himalayas. Pure Appl. Geophys., 163, 1679–1698, doi:10.1007/s00024-006-0092-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hatwar, H. R., B. P. Yadav, and Y. V. Rama Rao, 2005: Prediction of western disturbances and associated weather over Western Himalayas. Curr. Sci. India, 88, 913–920.Google Scholar
  7. Hoskins, B. J., I. N. James, and G. H. White, 1983: The shape, propagation and mean-flow interaction of large-scale weather systems. J. Atmos. Sci., 40, 1595–1612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Immerzeel, W. W., L. P. H. van Beek, and M. F. P. Bierkens, 2010: Climate change will affect the Asian water towers. Science, 328, 1382–1385, doi:10.1126/science.1183188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kalnay, E., and Coauthors, 1996: The NCEP/NCAR 40-Year Reanalysis Project. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 77, 437–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kiladis, G. N., and H. F. Diaz, 1989: Global climatic anomalies associated with extremes in the Southern Oscillation. J. Climate, 2, 1069–1090.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kumar, N., B. P. Yadav, S. Gahlot, and M. Singh, 2015: Winter frequency of western disturbances and precipitation indices over Himachal Pradesh, India: 1977-2007. Atmósfera, 28, 63–70, doi:10.1016/S0187-6236(15)72160-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kumar, V., and S. K. Jain, 2010: Trends in seasonal and annual rainfall and rainy days in Kashmir Valley in the last century. Quatern. Int., 212, 64–69, doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2009.08.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lee, S.-K., W. Park, M. O. Baringer, A. L. Gordon, B. Huber, and Y. Liu, 2015: Pacific origin of the abrupt increase in Indian Ocean heat content during the warming hiatus. Nat. Geosci., 8, 445–449, doi:10.1038/ngeo2438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Madhura, R. K., R. Krishnan, J. V. Revadekar, M. Mujumdar, and B. N. Goswami, 2015: Changes in western disturbances over the Western Himalayas in a warming environment. Climate Dyn., 44, 1157–1168, doi:10.1007/s00382-014-2166-9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mooley, D. A., 1957: The role of western disturbances in the production of weather over India during different seasons. Indian J. Meteorol. Geophys., 8, 253–260.Google Scholar
  16. Nicholson, S. E., 1997: An analysis of the ENSO signal in the tropical Atlantic and western Indian Oceans. Int. J. Climatol., 17, 345–375, doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0088(19970330)17:4<345::AID-JOC127>3.0. CO;2-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Pisharoty, P. R., and B. N. Desai, 1956: Western disturbances and Indian Weather. Indian J. Meteorol. Geophys., 7, 333–338.Google Scholar
  18. Puranik, D. M., and R. N. Karekar, 2009: Western disturbances seen with AMSU-B and infrared sensors. J. Earth Syst. Sci., 118, 27–39, doi: 10.1007/s12040-009-0003-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Rangachary, N., and B. K. Bandyopadhyay, 1987: An analysis of the synoptic weather pattern associated with extensive avalanching in Western Himalaya. Int. Assoc. of Hydrol. Sci. Publ, 162, 311–316.Google Scholar
  20. Rao, Y. P., and V. Srinivasan, 1969: Forecasting Manual, Part III Discussion of typical synoptic weather situation: winter western disturbances and their associated features. India Meteorological Department, FMU Report No. III-1.Google Scholar
  21. Rees, H. G., and D. N. Collins, 2006: Regional differences in response of flow in glacier-fed Himalayan Rivers to climatic warming. Hydrol. Process., 20, 2157–2169, doi:10.1002/hyp.6209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ropelewski, C. F., and M. S. Halpert, 1987: Global and regional scale Precipitation Patterns associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation. Mon. Wea. Rev., 115, 985–996.Google Scholar
  23. Ropelewski, C. F., and M. S. Halpert, 1989: Precipitation patterns associated with the high index phase of the Southern Oscillation. J. Climate, 2, 268–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Roxy, M. K., R. Kapoor, P. Terray, and S. Masson, 2014: The curious case of Indian ocean warming. J. Climate, 27, 8501–8509, doi:10.1175/JCLID-14-00471.1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Shrestha, A. B., C. P. Wake, J. E. Dibb, and P. A. Mayewski, 2000: Precipitation fluctuations in the Nepal Himalaya and its vicinity and relationship with some large-scale climatological parameters. Int. J. Climatol., 20, 317–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Simmons, A. J., and B. J. Hoskins, 1978: The life cycles of some nonlinear baroclinic waves. J. Atmos. Sci., 35, 414–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Syed, F. S., F. Giorgi, J. S. Pal, and M. P. King, 2006: Effect of remote forcings on the winter precipitation of central southwest Asia part 1: observations. Theor. Appl. Climatol., 86, 147–160, doi:10.1007/s00704-005-0217-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Wu, Z., J. Li, Z. Jiang, J. He, and X. Zhu, 2012: Possible effects of the North Atlantic Oscillation on the strengthening relationship between the East Asian Summer monsoon and ENSO. Int. J. Climatol., 32, 794–800, doi:10.1002/joc.2309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Yadav, R. K., J. H. Yoo, F. Kucharski, and M. A. Abid, 2010: Why is ENSO influencing northwest India winter precipitation in recent decades? J. Climate, 23, 1979–1993, doi:10.1175/2009JCLI3202.1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Zhang, X., J. E. Walsh, J. Zhang, U. S. Bhatt, and M. Ikeda, 2004: Climatology and interannual variability of Arctic cyclone activity: 1948-2002. J. Climate, 17, 2300–2317, doi:10.1175/1520-0442(2004) 017<2300:CAIVOA>2.0.CO;2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Korean Meteorological Society and Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Soumik Basu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  • Peter A. Bieniek
    • 2
  • Akshay Deoras
    • 3
  1. 1.Polar Climate System and Global Change LaboratoryNanjing University of Information Science and TechnologyNanjingChina
  2. 2.International Arctic Research CenterUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science, School of Earth & EnvironmentUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK
  4. 4.International Arctic Research CenterUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA

Personalised recommendations