We use daily satellite estimates of sea surface temperature (SST)and rainfall during 1998 –2005 to show that onset of convection over the central Bay of Bengal (88-92°E, 14-18°N)during the core summer monsoon (mid-May to September)is linked to the meridional gradient of SST in the bay.The SST gradient was computed between two boxes in the northern (88-92°E, 18-22°N) and southern (82-88°E, 4-8°N) bay; the latter is the area of the cold tongue in the bay linked to the Summer Monsoon Current.Convection over central bay followed the SST difference between the northern and southern bay (𝛥 𝑇) exceeding 0.75°C in 28 cases.There was no instance of 𝛥 𝑇 exceeding this threshold without a burst in convection.There were,however,ﬁve instances of convection occurring without this SST gradient.Long rainfall events (events lasting more than a week)were associated with an SST event (𝛥 𝑇 ≥ 0.75°C);rainfall events tended to be short when not associated with an SST event.The SST gradient was important for the onset of convection, but not for its persistence:convection often persisted for several days even after the SST gradient weakened.The lag between 𝛥 𝑇 exceeding 0.75°C and the onset of convection was 0-18 days,but the lag histogram peaked at one week.In 75% of the 28 cases,convection occurred within a week of 𝛥 𝑇 exceeding the threshold of 0.75°C. The northern bay SST, T_N contributed more to 𝛥 𝑇 but it was a weaker criterion for convection than the SST gradient.A sensitivity analysis showed that the corresponding threshold for T_N was 29°C. We hypothesise that the excess heating (∼1° C above the threshold for deep convection)required in the northern bay to trigger convection is because this excess in SST is what is required to establish the critical SST gradient.
Volume 128 | Issue 8
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