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Sensitivity of precipitation to sea surface temperature over the tropical summer monsoon region - and its quantification

Roxy, M (2014) Sensitivity of precipitation to sea surface temperature over the tropical summer monsoon region - and its quantification. Climate Dynamics, 43. pp. 1159-1169.

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Over the tropical oceans, higher sea surface temperatures (SST, above 26 °C) in summer are generally accompanied by increased precipitation. However, it has been argued for the last three decades that, any monotonic increase in precipitation with respect to SST is limited to an upper threshold of 28–29.5 °C, and beyond this, the relationship fails. Based on this assessment it has often been presumed that, since the mean SSTs over the Asian monsoon basins (Indian Ocean and north-west Pacific) are mostly above the threshold, SST does not play an active role on the summer monsoon variability. It also implies that increasing SSTs due to a changing climate need not result in increasing monsoon precipitation. The current study shows that the response of precipitation to SST has a time lag, that too with a spatial variability over the monsoon basins. Taking this lag into account, the results here show that enhanced convection occurs even up to the SST maxima of 31 °C averaged over these basins, challenging any claim of an upper threshold for the SST-convection variability. The study provides us with a novel method to quantify the SST-precipitation relationship. The rate of increase is similar across the basins, with precipitation increasing at ~2 mm day−1 for an increase of 1 °C in SST. This means that even the high SSTs over the monsoon basins do play an active role on the monsoon variability, challenging previous assumptions. Since the response of precipitation to SST variability is visible in a few days, it would also imply that including realistic ocean–atmosphere coupling is crucial even for short term monsoon weather forecasts. Though recent studies suggest a weakening of the monsoon circulation over the last few decades, results here suggest an increased precipitation over the tropical monsoon regions, in a global warming environment with increased SSTs. Thus the signature of SST is found to be significant for the Asian summer monsoon, in a quantifiable manner, seamlessly through all the timescales—from short-term intraseasonal to long-term climate scales.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to Springer
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ocean atmosphere interaction;Asian monsoon;SST; precipitation relationship;Climate change
Subjects: Meteorology and Climatology
Depositing User: IITM Library
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2015 09:19
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2015 09:19

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