Tectonic Uplift and Climate Change

pp 171-201

The Impact of Tibet-Himalayan Elevation on the Sensitivity of the Monsoon Climate System to Changes in Solar Radiation

  • Warren L. PrellAffiliated withDepartment of Geological Sciences, Brown University
  • , John E. KutzbachAffiliated withCenter for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Two major agents in the evolution of the Earth’s climate have been the episodic uplift of mountain ranges and plateaus and changes in the seasonal distribution of solar radiation induced by changes in Earth’s orbit around the sun. One approach to identifying the specific regional and global climatic responses that result from changes in orographic and orbital configurations has been the use of atmospheric general circulation models (GCMs). A number of GCM experiments have sought to understand the impact of mountains in general and specifically the uplift of the Tibet-Himalayan complex on the Asian monsoon system.1–8 Recent “mountain” experiments have included surface boundary conditions with no orographic relief, surface elevations at half of modern values, and several variations with lowered mountains.3–7 In general, these experiments have shown that the summer monsoon response is highly sensitive to the surface elevation of the Tibet-Himalayan complex and that at least half of the modern elevation of this complex is required to produce the strong southwesterly winds over the Arabian Sea and significant precipation over India and southern Asia.5