Blog Archive

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A. Levermann et al., PNAS, 2009, Basic mechanism for abrupt monsoon transitions

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

Basic mechanism for abrupt monsoon transitions

Anders Levermann*, Jacob Schewe, Vladimir Petoukhov, and Hermann Held

Edited by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany and approved August 18, 2009 (received for review February 11, 2009.


Monsoon systems influence the livelihood of hundreds of millions of people. During the Holocene and last glacial period, rainfall in India and China has undergone strong and abrupt changes. Though details of monsoon circulations are complicated, observations reveal a defining moisture-advection feedback that dominates the seasonal heat balance and might act as an internal amplifier, leading to abrupt changes in response to relatively weak external perturbations. Here we present a minimal conceptual model capturing this positive feedback. The basic equations, motivated by observed relations, yield a threshold behavior, robust with respect to addition of other physical processes. Below this threshold in net radiative influx, Rc, no conventional monsoon can develop; above Rc, two stable regimes exist. We identify a nondimensional parameter l that defines the threshold and makes monsoon systems comparable with respect to the character of their abrupt transition. This dynamic similitude may be helpful in understanding past and future variations in monsoon circulation. Within the restrictions of the model, we compute Rc for current monsoon systems in India, China, the Bay of Bengal, West Africa, North America, and Australia, where moisture advection is the main driver of the circulation.

*Correspondence e-mail:

Link to abstract:

No comments: