• Sulochana Gadgil

      Articles written in Journal of Earth System Science

    • Coherent rainfall zones: Case study for Karnataka

      Sulochana Gadgil R Gowri Yadumani

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      Generally average rainfall over meteorological subdivisions is used for assessment of the variability of monsoon rainfall. It is shown here that variations of seasonal rainfall over the meteorological subdivisions of interior Karnataka are not coherent. A methodology for delineating coherent rainfall zones is developed in this paper and applied to derive such zones for the State of Karnataka.

    • On breaks of the Indian monsoon

      Sulochana Gadgil P V Joseph

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      For over a century, the term break has been used for spells in which the rainfall over the Indian monsoon zone is interrupted. The phenomenon of ’break monsoon’ is of great interest because long intense breaks are often associated with poor monsoon seasons. Such breaks have distinct circulation characteristics (heat trough type circulation) and have a large impact on rainfed agriculture. Although interruption of the monsoon rainfall is considered to be the most important feature of the break monsoon, traditionally breaks have been identified on the basis of the surface pressure and wind patterns over the Indian region. We have defined breaks (and active spells) on the basis of rainfall over the monsoon zone. The rainfall criteria are chosen so as to ensure a large overlap with the traditional breaks documented by Ramamurthy (1969) and Deet al (1998). We have identified these rainbreaks for 1901-89. We have also identified active spells on the basis of rainfall over the Indian monsoon zone. We have shown that the all-India summer monsoon rainfall is significantly negatively correlated with the number of rainbreak days (correlation coefficient -0.56) and significantly positively correlated with the number of active days (correlation coefficient 0.47). Thus the interannual variation of the all-India summer monsoon rainfall is shown to be related to the number of days of rainbreaks and active spells identified here.

      There have been several studies of breaks (and also active spells in several cases) identified on the basis of different criteria over regions differing in spatial scales (e.g., Websteret al 1998; Krishnanet al it 2000; Goswami and Mohan 2000; and Annamalai and Slingo 2001). We find that there is considerable overlap between the rainbreaks we have identified and breaks based on the traditional definition. There is some overlap with the breaks identified by Krishnanet al (2000) but little overlap with breaks identified by Websteret al (1998). Further, there are three or four active-break cycles in a season according to Websteret al (1998) which implies a time scale of about 40 days for which Goswami and Mohan (2000), and Annamalai and Slingo (2001) have studied breaks and active minus break fluctuations. On the other hand, neither the traditional breaks (Ramamurthy 1969; and Deet al 1998) nor the rainbreaks occur every year. This suggests that the `breaks’ in these studies are weak spells of the intraseasonal variation of the monsoon, which occur every year.

      We have derived the OLR and circulation patterns associated with rainbreaks and active spells and compared them with the patterns associated with breaks/active minus break spells from these studies. Inspite of differences in the patterns over the Indian region, there is one feature which is seen in the OLR anomaly patterns of breaks identified on the basis of different criteria as well as the rainbreaks identified in this paper viz., a quadrapole over the Asia-west Pacific region arising from anomalies opposite (same) in sign to those over the Indian region occurring over the equatorial Indian Ocean and northern tropical (equatorial) parts of the west Pacific. Thus it appears that this quadrapole is a basic feature of weak spells of the intraseasonal variation over the Asia-west Pacific region. Since the rainbreaks are intense weak spells, this basic feature is also seen in the composite patterns of these breaks. We find that rainbreaks (active spells) are also associated with negative

    • Active and break spells of the Indian summer monsoon

      M Rajeevan Sulochana Gadgil Jyoti Bhate

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      In this paper, we suggest criteria for the identification of active and break events of the Indian summer monsoon on the basis of recently derived high resolution daily gridded rainfall dataset over India (1951–2007). Active and break events are defined as periods during the peak monsoon months of July and August, in which the normalized anomaly of the rainfall over a critical area, called the monsoon core zone exceeds 1 or is less than −1.0 respectively, provided the criterion is satisfied for at least three consecutive days. We elucidate the major features of these events. We consider very briefly the relationship of the intraseasonal fluctuations between these events and the interannual variation of the summer monsoon rainfall.

      We find that breaks tend to have a longer life-span than active spells. While, almost 80% of the active spells lasted 3–4 days, only 40% of the break spells were of such short duration. A small fraction (9%) of active spells and 32% of break spells lasted for a week or longer. While active events occurred almost every year, not a single break occurred in 26% of the years considered. On an average, there are 7 days of active and break events from July through August. There are no significant trends in either the days of active or break events. We have shown that there is a major difference between weak spells and long intense breaks. While weak spells are characterized by weak moist convective regimes, long intense break events have a heat trough type circulation which is similar to the circulation over the Indian subcontinent before the onset of the monsoon.

      The space-time evolution of the rainfall composite patterns suggests that the revival from breaks occurs primarily from northward propagations of the convective cloud zone. There are important differences between the spatial patterns of the active/break spells and those characteristic of interannual variation, particularly those associated with the link to ENSO. Hence, the interannual variation of the Indian monsoon cannot be considered as primarily arising from the interannual variation of intraseasonal variation. However, the signature over the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean on intraseasonal time scales is similar to that on the interannual time scales.

    • Towards understanding the unusual Indian monsoon in 2009

      P A Francis Sulochana Gadgil

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      The Indian summer monsoon season of 2009 commenced with a massive deficit in all-India rainfallof 48% of the average rainfall in June. The all-India rainfall in July was close to the normal but that in August was deficit by 27%. In this paper, we first focus on June 2009, elucidating the special features and attempting to identify the factors that could have led to the large deficit in rainfall. In June 2009, the phase of the two important modes, viz., El Ni˜no and Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the equatorial Indian Ocean Oscillation (EQUINOO) was unfavourable. Also, the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean (EEIO) was warmer than in other years and much warmer than the Bay. In almost all the years, the opposite is true, i.e., the Bay is warmer than EEIO in June. It appears that this SST gradient gave an edge to the tropical convergence zone over the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean, in competition with the organized convection over the Bay. Thus, convection was not sustained for more than three or four days over the Bay and no northward propagations occurred. We suggest that the reversal of the sea surface temperature (SST) gradient between the Bay of Bengal and EEIO, played a critical role in the rainfall deficit over the Bay and hence the Indian region. We also suggest that suppression of convection over EEIO in association with the El Ni˜no led to a positive phase of EQUINOO in July and hence revival of the monsoon despite the El Ni˜no. It appears that the transition to a negative phase of EQUINOO in August and the associated large deficit in monsoon rainfall can also be attributed to the El Ni˜no.

    • How good are the simulations of tropical SST–rainfall relationship by IPCC AR4 atmospheric and coupled models?

      K Rajendran Ravi S Nanjundiah Sulochana Gadgil J Srinivasan

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      The failure of atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs) forced by prescribed SST to simulate and predict the interannual variability of Indian/Asian monsoon has been widely attributed to their inability to reproduce the actual sea surface temperature (SST)–rainfall relationship in the warm Indo-Pacific oceans. This assessment is based on a comparison of the observed and simulated correlation between the rainfall and local SST. However, the observed SSTconvection/rainfall relationship is nonlinear and for this a linear measure such as the correlation is not an appropriate measure. We show that the SST–rainfall relationship simulated by atmospheric and coupled general circulation models in IPCC AR4 is nonlinear, as observed, and realistic over the tropical West Pacific (WPO) and the Indian Ocean (IO). The SST–rainfall pattern simulated by the coupled versions of these models is rather similar to that from the corresponding atmospheric one, except for a shift of the entire pattern to colder/warmer SSTs when there is a cold/warm bias in the coupled version.

    • A note on new indices for the equatorial Indian Ocean oscillation

      P A Francis Sulochana Gadgil

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      It is now well known that there is a strong association of the extremes of the Indian summer monsoon rainfall (ISMR) with the El Ni˜no and southern oscillation (ENSO) and the Equatorial Indian Ocean Oscillation (EQUINOO), later being an east–west oscillation in convection anomaly over the equatorial Indian Ocean. So far, the index used for EQUINOO is EQWIN, which is based on the surface zonal wind over the central equatorial Indian Ocean. Since the most important attribute of EQUINOO is the oscillation in convection/precipitation, we believe that the indices based on convection or precipitation would be more appropriate. Continuous and reliable data on outgoing longwave radiation (OLR), and satellite derived precipitation are now available from 1979 onwards. Hence, in this paper, we introduce new indices for EQUINOO, based on the difference in the anomaly of OLR/precipitation between eastern and western parts of the equatorial Indian Ocean. We show that the strong association of extremes of the Indian summer monsoon with ENSO and EQUINOO is also seen when the new indices are used to represent EQUINOO.

    • The monsoon system: Land–sea breeze or the ITCZ?

      Sulochana Gadgil

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      For well over 300 years, the monsoon has been considered to be a gigantic land–sea breeze driven by the land–ocean contrast in surface temperature. In this paper, this hypothesis and its implications for the variability of the monsoon are discussed and it is shown that the observations of monsoon variability donot support this popular theory of the monsoon. An alternative hypothesis (whose origins can be traced to Blanford’s (1886) remarkably perceptive analysis) in which the basic system responsible for the Indian summer monsoon is considered to be the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) or the equatorial trough, is then examined and shown to be consistent with the observations. The implications of considering the monsoon as a manifestation of the seasonal migration of the ITCZ for the variability of the Indian summer monsoon and for identification of the monsoonal regions of the world are briefly discussed.

    • On rogue La Niñas, with below-average monsoon rainfall


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      Prediction of the seasonal monsoon rainfall over India relies largely on the well-known relationship with El Niño and Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and is possible because reasonably reliable seasonal predictions of ENSO are now available. Usually, the cold phase of ENSO is associated with above-normal monsoon rainfall and the warm phase of ENSO with below-normal rainfall. There are, however, exceptions: years in the cold phase of ENSO with below-normal monsoon rainfall and even drought conditions. We term these exceptional events ‘rogue La Niñas’. Clearly, an explanation of these exceptional cases will improve the predictive skill. Here we show that for the part of the Arabian Sea, east of the upwelling region and north of the equatorial belt (60°–70°E, 10°–23°N), the correlation of outgoing longwave radiation with Indian summer monsoon rainfall is even higher than that with the equatorial central Pacific associated with ENSO. Convection over this region is triggered by ENSO, but is modulated by the underlying sea surface temperature (SST). There is a minimum of SST of about 28.1°C above which the convection over the Arabian Sea is high enough and there are no rogue La Niñas. Furthermore, we show that, in this region, the SST of June–September is related to the SST of April–May. When April–May SST is >29.6°C, June–September mean SST is always >28.1°C and there are no rogue La Niñas; the monsoon rainfall is always normal or above normal as expected with a La Niña. Thus the chance of a rogue La Niña can be predicted from the April–May SST of the Arabian Sea.

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