1998 Volume 76 Issue 6 Pages 1009-1027
A significant coupling of the Asian summer monsoon and ENSO was examined using the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis for the period 1973-1995. Results show that a monsoon index, which is defined as meridional gradient of summertime upper-tropospheric thickness (200-500hPa) anomalies across 20°N over the Indian subcontinent, is highly correlated with Niño-3 SST anomalies in the preceding spring. This is strongly suggestive of the presence of the indirect impact of anomalous SST forcing associated with ENSO on the Asian summer monsoon.
Due to attenuated Walker circulation in response to a warm episode, convection is suppressed over the northern tropical Indian Ocean and the maritime continent from the preceding winter to spring. The suppressed tropical convection in the preceding spring generates anomalous cyclonic circulation to the west of the Tibetan Plateau as a result of the Rossby-type response to convective heating off the equator. The convection-induced anomalous cyclonic circulation accompanied by large-scale ascending atmospheric motion contributes substantially to increased rainfall and greater soil moisture, thus resulting in decreased land-surface temperature over central Asia to the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. On the other hand, warm SST anomalies are initially introduced over the tropical Indian Ocean in late spring prior to the onset of the monsoon due to the changes in the surface heat flux and/or dynamic response of the ocean to wind forcing, in intimately association with pronounced in situ low-level northeasterly wind anomalies and less cloud cover. Both these different physical processes in the land and ocean areas are crucially responsible for reduced land-ocean thermal contrast (or reduced meridional tropospheric temperature gradient), eventually bringing about the weakening of the Asian summer monsoon. The reverse situation is quite true for strong monsoon years. Once the summer monsoon becomes weak (strong) at its early stage due to these processes, the initially induced warm (cool) SST anomalies over the tropical Indian Ocean are further intensified.
The mechanism proposed here is valid during the period from the late 1970s to the early 1990s when weak and strong monsoon years are categorized. During that period, the unusual Niño-3 SST anomalies tend to persist from the preceding winter until summer, hence serving as a bridge between the ENSO prevailing in the preceding winter and anomalous summer monsoon. However, regardless of when the monsoon-ENSO coupling is prominent, both the springtime outgoing longwave radiation and low-level wind anomalies dominating over the tropical Indian Ocean, associated with anomalous Walker circulation, are still crucial factors in terms of the potential predictability of the Asian summer monsoon.