Impact of Orography on the Simulation of Monsoon Climate in a General Circulation Model

by Chakraborty, Arindam

Abstract (Summary)
Orography plays a major role in the general circulation and climate of the tropics. Although many works have been done on the impact of global orography on summer monsoon, the previous studies have examined the impact on seasonal mean scale or only during the first half of the season. Role of orography on intra-seasonal variability has not been addressed previously. Also, the proximate and remote impacts of orography have not been studied. In this thesis an atmospheric General Circulation Model (GCM) has been used to investigate the impact of global and regional orography on monsoon climate. Two different cumulus schemes have been used to study the sensitivity of the results to the cumulus parameterization scheme. The model was forced with seasonally varying sea surface temperature (SST) for the year 1998. An ensemble simulation of 5 members were performed for each experiment.

The simulations showed that the removal of Himalayas or orography over the entire earth caused a delay of about one month in the onset of the monsoon. The delay in monsoon onset was on account of a more stable atmosphere due to intrusion of mid-latitude cold air into the Indian region in the absence of Himalayas. After the onset, the precipitation rate was comparable in control and no-mountain simulations. The seasonal mean (June-September) precipitation over this region decreased by 25% in the no-mountain case as compared to control.

A comparison of the impact of east and west Himalaya orography showed that orography west of 80E has more impact on the phase and intensity of summer monsoon precipitation over the Indian region than orography east of 80E. The onset of summer monsoon over the Indian region was delayed by about one month with the removal of Himalaya orography west of 80E, but was delayed by just about one week with the removal of Himalaya orography east of 80E. This is because, the cold air intrusion was more when Himalaya orography west of 80E was removed. Seasonal mean precipitation decreased by 22% and 12% with the removal of orography west and east of 80E respectively. Himalaya orography east of 80E showed more influence on precipitation over the north-east Indian region and East Asia.

The removal of orography from the African continent increased the summer monsoon precipitation over the Indian region. This was on account of an increase in the zonal mass flux from the African continent in the absence of East African mountains. This mass flux brings more moisture into the south Asian region and increases precipitation over the Indian region and Bay of Bengal. A higher precipitation over the Bay of Bengal leads to higher wind over the Somalia coast and this acts as a positive feedback to enhance the summer monsoon precipitation by about 28% over the Indian region.

The presence of orography only over the African continent resulted in the largest delay in the monsoon onset (by 50 days) and the lowest amount of seasonal precipitation (decrease by 36%) over the Indian region among all the simulations. This is due to further reduction in zonal mass (and hence, moisture) flux toward the Indian subcontinent with the inclusion of African orography when compared with no-global orography simulation.

The seasonal mean precipitation decreased by 19% over the Indian region with the removal of American orography. The onset of monsoon was delayed by about 3 weeks in this experiment as compared to control. This delay was due to a relative downward motion in the upper troposphere on account of the shift of the Rossby wave with the removal of American mountains.

In this thesis, a new theory has been proposed for monsoon onset based on thermodynamic conditioning (necessary condition) and mechanical trigger (sufficient condition) of the atmosphere. This theory was able to explain the large variation in monsoon onset dates (maximum spread 57 days) in different simulations.

The low level circulation was affected more by Himalaya orography west of 80E, which had a profound influence on precipitation over the Indian region. However, upper level circulation was affected more by Himalaya orography east of 80 E. The northward shift of the upper tropospheric westerly jet during the Northern Hemispheric summer was sudden in presence of the Tibetan Plateau and gradual in its absence. This shift was not related to the onset of monsoon over the Indian region.

Northward propagation of convection was found to be present even in the absence of global orography. But northward extent of this propagation was delayed without orography on account of the absence of a favorite meridional gradient of moist static energy in the lower troposphere in the early summer season due to intrusion of mid-latitude cold air. Space-time spectral analysis showed that the intensity of eastward moving convectively coupled atmospheric waves, known as Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO), decreased in absence of global orography. Moreover, the presence of orography favor the higher zonal wave number for MJO propagation.

Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Srinivasan, J; Nanjundiah, Ravi S

School:Indian Institute of Science

School Location:India

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:atmospheric science orography general circulation model monsoon climate


Date of Publication:06/01/2004

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