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The interaction of moist convection and mid-level dry air in the advance of the onset of the Indian monsoon

Parker, D. J., Willetts, P., Birch, C., Turner, A. G. ORCID:, Marsham, J. H., Taylor, C. M., Kolusu, S. and Martin, G. M. (2016) The interaction of moist convection and mid-level dry air in the advance of the onset of the Indian monsoon. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 142 (699). pp. 2256-2272. ISSN 1477-870X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/qj.2815


The advance of the onset of the Indian monsoon is here explained in terms of a balance between the low-level monsoon flow and an over-running intrusion of mid-tropospheric dry air. The monsoon advances, over a period of about 6 weeks, from the south of the country to the northwest. Given that the low-level monsoon winds are westerly or southwesterly, and the midlevel winds northwesterly, the monsoon onset propagates upwind relative to midlevel flow, and perpendicular to the low-level flow, and is not directly caused by moisture flux toward the northwest. Lacking a conceptual model for the advance means that it has been hard to understand and correct known biases in weather and climate prediction models. The mid-level northwesterlies form a wedge of dry air that is deep in the far northwest of India and over-runs the monsoon flow. The dry layer is moistened from below by shallow cumulus and congestus clouds, so that the profile becomes much closer to moist adiabatic, and the dry layer is much shallower in the vertical, toward the southeast of India. The profiles associated with this dry air show how the most favourable environment for deep convection occurs in the south, and onset occurs here first. As the onset advances across India, the advection of moisture from the Arabian Sea becomes stronger, and the mid-level dry air is increasingly moistened from below. This increased moistening makes the wedge of dry air shallower throughout its horizontal extent, and forces the northern limit of moist convection to move toward the northwest. Wetting of the land surface by rainfall will further reinforce the north-westward progression, by sustaining the supply of boundary layer moisture and shallow cumulus. The local advance of the monsoon onset is coincident with weakening of the mid-level northwesterlies, and therefore weakened mid-level dry advection.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:43259
Publisher:Royal Meteorological Society


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