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Modelling monsoons: understanding and predicting current and future behaviour

By Andrew George Turner, Kenneth Sperber, Julia Mary Slingo, Gerald Meehl, C. Roberto Mechoso, Masahide Kimoto and Alessandra Giannini


The global monsoon system is so varied and complex that understanding and predicting its diverse behaviour remains a challenge that will occupy modellers for many years to come. Despite the difficult task ahead, an improved monsoon modelling capability has been realized through the inclusion of more detailed physics of the climate system and higher resolution in our numerical models. Perhaps the most crucial improvement to date has been the development of coupled ocean-atmosphere models. From subseasonal to interdecadal time scales, only through the inclusion of air-sea interaction can the proper phasing and teleconnections of convection be attained with respect to sea surface temperature variations. Even then, the response to slow variations in remote forcings (e.g., El Niño—Southern Oscillation) does not result in a robust solution, as there are a host of competing modes of variability that must be represented, including those that appear to be chaotic. Understanding the links between monsoons and land surface processes is not as mature as that explored regarding air-sea interactions. A land surface forcing signal appears to dominate the onset of wet season rainfall over the North American monsoon region, though the relative role of ocean versus land forcing remains a topic of investigation in all the monsoon systems. Also, improved forecasts have been made during periods in which additional sounding observations are available for data assimilation. Thus, there is untapped predictability that can only be attained through the development of a more comprehensive observing system for all monsoon regions. Additionally, improved parameterizations - for example, of convection, cloud, radiation, and boundary layer schemes as well as land surface processes - are essential to realize the full potential of monsoon predictability. A more comprehensive assessment is needed of the impact of black carbon aerosols, which may modulate that of other anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Dynamical considerations require ever increased horizontal resolution (probably to 0.5 degree or higher) in order to resolve many monsoon features including, but not limited to, the Mei-Yu/Baiu sudden onset and withdrawal, low-level jet orientation and variability, and orographic forced rainfall. Under anthropogenic climate change many competing factors complicate making robust projections of monsoon changes. Absent aerosol effects, increased land-sea temperature contrast suggests strengthened monsoon circulation due to climate change. However, increased aerosol emissions will reflect more solar radiation back to space, which may temper or even reduce the strength of monsoon circulations compared to the present day. Precipitation may behave independently from the circulation under warming conditions in which an increased atmospheric moisture loading, based purely on thermodynamic considerations, could result in increased monsoon rainfall under climate change. The challenge to improve model parameterizations and include more complex processes and feedbacks pushes computing resources to their limit, thus requiring continuous upgrades of computational infrastructure to ensure progress in understanding and predicting current and future behaviour of monsoons

Topics: 551
Publisher: World Scientific/WMO
Year: 2011
OAI identifier:

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