Marine Science Faculty Publications


Relationships between Interannual Variability in the Arabian Sea and Indian Summer Monsoon Rainfall

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Interannual Variability, Empirical Orthogonal Function, Monsoon Rainfall, Indian Summer Monsoon, Indian Summer Monsoon Rainfall

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The interannual variability of the monthly mean upper layer thickness for the central Arabian Sea (5°N-15° N and 60° E-70° E) from a numerical model of the Indian Ocean during the period 1954–1976 is investigated in relation to Indian monsoon rainfall variability. The variability in the surface structure of the Somali Current in the western Arabian Sea is also briefly discussed. It is found that these fields show a great deal of interannual variability that is correlated with variability in Indian monsoon rainfall. Model upper layer thickness (H) is taken as a surrogate variable for thermocline depth, which is assumed to be correlated with sea surface temperature. In general, during the period 1967 to 1974, which is a period of lower than normal monsoon rainfall, the upper ocean warm water sphere is thicker (deeper thermocline which implies warmer surface water); in contrast, during the period 1954–1966, which is a period of higher than normal monsoon rainfall, the upper warm water sphere is thinner (shallower thermocline which implies cooler surface water). The filtered time series of uppper layer thickness indieates the presence of a quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) during the wet monsoon period, but this QBO signal is conspicuously absent during the dry monsoon period.

Since model H primarily responds to wind stress curl, the interannual variability of the stress curl is investigated by means of an empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis. The first three EOF modes represent more than 72% of the curl variance. The spatial patterns for these modes exhibit many elements of central Arabian Sea climatology. Features observed include the annual variation in the intensity of the summer monsoon ridge in the Arabian Sea and the annual zonal oscillation of the ridge during pre- and post-monsoon seasons. The time coefficients for the first EOF amplitude indicate the presence of a QBO during the wet monsoon period only, as seen in the ocean upper layer thickness.

The variability in the model upper layer thickness is a passive response to variability in the wind field, or more specifically to variability in the Findlater Jet. When the winds are stronger, they drive stronger currents in the ocean and have stronger curl fields associated with them, driving stronger Ekman pumping. They transport more moisture from the southern hemisphere toward the Indian subcontinent, and they also drive a greater evaporative heat flux beneath the Findlater Jet in the Arabian Sea. It has been suggested that variability in the heat content of the Arabian Sea drives variability in Indian monsoon rainfall. The results of this study suggest that the opposite is true, that the northern Arabian Sea responds passively to variability in the monsoon system.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics, v. 44, issue 1-4, p. 153-165