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Topographic controls on the distribution of summer monsoon precipitation over South Asia...

by Moetasim Ashfaq
Publication Type
Journal Name
Earth Systems and Environment
Publication Date
Page Numbers
667 to 683

We use a high-resolution (9 km) one-way nested regional climate modeling framework to systematically evaluate individual and aggregate roles of various components of topography in the precipitation distribution during South Asian Summer Monsoon (SASM). While it is not the arrival but the north-northwestward extent of summer monsoon precipitation that is regulated by the presence of elevated surfaces in South Asia, both the thermal and mechanical topographic forcing play a role. Topography not only provides mechanical uplifting and prevents dry air entrainment, it also helps regulate the strength of upper level anticyclone and tropical easterly jet, all of which are necessary to sustain a conducive environment for monsoon precipitation in the South Asian summer. In turn, precipitation feedbacks positively by accelerating the tropospheric diabatic warming through atmospheric latent heating and by maintaining the moisture supply through local recycling. Modifications in the topography, particularly the removal of the Tibetan Plateau, substantially modulates the moist flow in the lower troposphere and the anticyclonic circulation in the upper troposphere to an extent that the northern branch of SASM becomes substantially weaker. These changes give way to negative precipitation anomalies and eventually to an environment where the cycle of feedbacks that runs the process of monsoon progression over land becomes inefficient. The design of topographic modification experiments can influence precipitation response; therefore, we advise caution in the interpretation of these and previously reported results.