Volume 70 (1992) Issue 1B Pages 319-351
Using the objectively analyzed FGGE II-b upper-air data, the large-scale circulation, heat sources and moisture sinks over the Tibetan Plateau and surrounding areas are examined for a 9-month period from December 1978 to August 1979. In addition to the FGGE data, special soundings obtained during the Chinese Qinghai-Xizang (Tibet) Plateau Meteorological Experiment (QXPMEX) from May to August 1979 are also used in the objective analyses.
The evolution of the large-scale flow patterns, temperature, outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) and vertical circulation is described in order to identify the distinct seasonal changes from winter to summer that lead to the onset of the Asian summer monsoon. The Tibetan Plateau maintains a large-scale thermally driven vertical circulation which is originally separated from the planetary-scale monsoon system. The rising motion exists only on the western Plateau in winter and then spreads to the whole Plateau as the season progresses. The monsoon onset over Asia is an interaction process between the Plateau-induced circulation and the circulation associated with the principal rainbelt migrating northward.
During winter the Plateau is a heat sink, but it is surrounded by regions of more intense cooling. In spring the Plateau becomes a heat source, but the cooling in the surrounding areas continues. The sensible heat flux from the surface provides the major source of heating on the Plateau. However, additional contribution from condensation heating is observed in the western Plateau during all seasons and, more significantly, in the eastern Plateau during summer. The sensible heating of the elevated Plateau surface and the radiative cooling in the environment maintain the horizontal temperature contrast that drives the thermally direct vertical circulation.
The detailed examination of the warming process of the upper troposphere during two transition periods, i. e., the onset of the Southeast Asian monsoon in May and that of the Indian monsoon in June, reveals that the temperature increase over the eastern Plateau during the first onset was mainly the result of diabatic heating, whereas that over the Iran-Afghanistan-western Plateau region leading to the second onset was caused by intense subsidence.
There are large diurnal variations in the boundary layer and vertical circulation over the Plateau. As a result of diurnal heating of the surface, a deep mixed layer of nearly uniform potential temperature exists over the Plateau in the evening (1200 UTC), suggesting the role of thermal convection in the upward transport of heat. However, moisture is not well mixed vertically and there is a large horizontal temperature gradient in the boundary layer. From late spring to summer the boundary layer becomes more stable for dry convection. On the other hand, the vertical distributions of equivalent potential temperature in late spring and afterwards show a conditionally unstable stratification for moist convection with the increase of moisture of surface air.