Relationship of the South Asian Monsoon and Regional Drought with Distinct Equatorial Pacific SST Patterns on Interannual and Decadal Timescales

Friday, 19 December 2014
Manuel Hernandez1, Caroline Ummenhofer1 and Kevin J Anchukaitis2, (1)WHOI, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (2)Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst, Woods Hole, MA, United States
The Asian monsoon system influences the lives of over 60% of the planet's population, with widespread socioeconomic effects resulting from weakening or failure of monsoon rains. Spatially broad and temporally extended drought episodes have been known to dramatically influence human history, including the Strange Parallels Drought in the mid-18th century. Here, we explore the dynamics of sustained monsoon failure using the Monsoon Asia Drought Atlas – a high-resolution network of hydro-climatically sensitive tree-ring records – and a 1300-year pre-industrial control run of the Community Earth System Model (CESM).

Spatial drought patterns in the instrumental and model-based Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) during years with extremely weakened South Asian monsoon are similar to those reconstructed during the Strange Parallels Drought in the MADA. We further explore how the large-scale Indo-Pacific climate during weakened South Asian monsoon differs between interannual and decadal timescales. The Strange Parallels Drought pattern is observed during March-April-May primarily over Southeast Asia, with decreased precipitation and reduced moisture fluxes, while anomalies in June-July-August are confined to the Indian subcontinent during both individual and decadal events. Individual years with anomalous drying exhibit canonical El Niño conditions over the eastern equatorial Pacific and associated shifts in the Walker circulation, while decadal events appear to be related to anomalous warming around the dateline in the equatorial Pacific, typical of El Niño Modoki events. The results suggest different dynamical processes influence drought at different time scales through distinct remote ocean influences.