The role of intraseasonal oscillations (ISOs) in modulating synoptic and interannual variations of surface winds over the Indian monsoon region is studied using daily averaged National Centers for Environmental Prediction/National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCEP/NCAR) reanalyses for the period 1987–1996. Two dominant ISOs are found in all years, with a period between 30–60 days and 10–20 days respectively. Although the ISOs themselves explain only about 10–25% of the daily variance, the spatial structure of variance of the ISOs is found to be nearly identical to that of high frequency activity (synoptic disturbances), indicating a significant control by the ISOs in determining the synoptic variations. Zonal and meridional propagation characteristics of the two modes and their interannual variability are studied in detail.
The synoptic structure of the 30–60 day mode is similar in all years and is shown to be intimately related to the strong (‘active’) or weak (‘break’) phases of the Indian summer monsoon circulation. The peak (trough) phase of the mode in the north Bay of Bengal corresponds to the ‘active’ (‘break’) phase of monsoon strengthening (weakening) the entire large scale monsoon circulation. The ISOs modulate synoptic activity through the intensification or weakening of the large scale monsoon flow (monsoon trough). The peak wind anomalies associated with these ISOs could be as large as 30% of the seasonal mean winds in many regions. The vorticity pattern associated with the 30–60 day mode has a bi-modal meridional structure similar to the one associated with the seasonal mean winds but with a smaller meridional scale. The spatial structure of the 30–60 day mode is consistent with fluctuations of the tropical convergence zone (TCZ) between one continental and an equatorial Indian Ocean position. The 10–20 day mode has maximum amplitude in the north Bay of Bengal, where it is comparable to that of the 30–60 day mode. Elsewhere in the Indian Ocean, this mode is almost always weaker than the 30–60 day mode. In the Bay of Bengal region, the wind curl anomalies associated with the peak phases of the ISOs could be as large as 50% of the seasonal mean wind curl. Hence, ISOs in this region could drive significant ISOs in the ocean and might influence the seasonal mean currents in the Bay.
On the interannual time scale, the NCEP/NCAR reanalysed wind stress is compared with the Florida State University monthly mean stress. The seasonal mean stress as well as interannual standard deviation of monthly stress from the two analyses agree well, indicating absence of any serious systematic bias in the NCEP/NCAR reanalysed winds. It is also found that the composite structure of the 30–60 day mode is strikingly similar to the dominant mode of interannual variability of the seasonal mean winds indicating a strong link between the ISOs and the seasonal mean. The ISO influences the seasonal mean and its interannual variability either through increased/decreased residence time of the TCZ in the continental position or through occurrence of stronger/weaker active/break spells. Thus, the ISOs seem to modulate all variability in this region from synoptic to interannual scales.