The Role of African topography in the South Asian Monsoon

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ho-Hsuan Wei and Simona Bordoni, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States
The Somali cross-equatorial jet is estimated to contribute up to half of the mass flux crossing the equator during the Asian monsoon season. Previous studies have argued that the Somali jet is strengthened by the East African Highlands, which act as a wall and accelerate the flow (e.g., Krishnamurti et al. 1976, Sashegyi and Geisler 1987). Besides, observational studies have shown a positive correlation between the strength of the Somali jet and the South Asian Monsoon (SAM) precipitation (e.g., Findlater 1969, Halpern and Woiceshyn 2001). These imply that the existence of the topography would relate to a stronger SAM. However, in a more recent study, Chakraborty et al. (2002) found that if the African topography is removed in a comprehensive general circulation model (GCM), the SAM strengthens.

In this study, we use the GFDL AM2.1 GCM to conduct experiments with and without topography in Africa, to further examine its influence on the cross-equatorial Somali jet and the SAM. We find that when the African topography is removed, the SAM precipitation increases, consistent with the results in Chakraborty et al. (2002). Interestingly, our results also show that the cross-equatorial Somali jet does weaken in the absence of the African topography, in agreement with previous studies. The moisture budget shows that the increase in precipitation in the no-African topography experiment is primarily due to stronger wind convergence. The dynamics of the cross-equatorial Somali jet is investigated within the framework of the Potential Vorticity (PV) budget, showing the contribution of the changes in friction and diabatic heating to the circulation as the topography is removed. A backward trajectory analysis is also conducted to further examine the influence of topography on both the material tendencies of the PV budget and trajectories of parcels reaching the Indian subcontinent.