Changes in western disturbances over the Western Himalayas in a warming environment

An Erratum to this article was published on 04 June 2014

Abstract

The climate of the Western-Himalayan (WH) region is sensitively dependent on precipitation during the winter and early spring months (December-to-April, DJFMA) produced largely by synoptic weather-systems known as “Western Disturbances” (WD), which originate from the Mediterranean region and propagate eastward as troughs and cyclonic lows embedded in the sub-tropical westerlies. While the WH region has witnessed a significant rise in surface temperatures since the post-1950s, there are no major trends in the DJFMA seasonal precipitation. Past studies, based on station observations from the WH, have reported a significant increase in the occurrence of extreme precipitation events in recent decades. Here, we have analyzed multi-source climate datasets to understand the increasing frequency of heavy precipitation events over WH. Our analysis suggests that pronounced warming trends over the Tibetan Plateau in recent decades, arising due to the elevation dependency of the climatic warming signal, have favored enhancement of meridional temperature gradients at middle and upper-tropospheric levels over the sub-tropics and mid-latitudes. The present findings indicate that the observed pattern of mid-tropospheric warming trend in recent decades over west-central Asia has led to increased baroclinic instability of the mean westerly winds, thereby favoring increased variability of WDs and higher propensity of heavy precipitation events over the WH.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Given the high elevation of the Tibetan Plateau, the sub-tropical/mid-latitude westerly winds at 700 hPa during DJFMA prevail to the north of 35°N where elevations are less than 3,100 m and also to the west of 70°E.

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Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge discussions with Dr. Ashwini Kulkarni and Dr. T. P. Sabin. IITM is fully funded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Govt. of India. The authors are thankful to Dr. D. S. Pai of the National Climate Centre, IMD for providing the (0.25° × 0.25°) high resolution precipitation data. The authors are thankful to the three anonymous reviewers and the Editor, Prof. Jean-Claude Duplessy for providing helpful reviews.

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Correspondence to R. Krishnan.

Electronic supplementary material

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382_2014_2166_MOESM1_ESM.pdf

Figure A1: The time-series of standard-deviation of daily precipitation during the DJFMA season for the period (1901-2011) averaged over the WH domain. The precipitation dataset is from IMD. A significant increasing trend (at 5 % level) can be seen (PDF 474 kb)

382_2014_2166_MOESM2_ESM.pdf

Figure A2: Daily time series of the first two principal components (PCs) of the DJFMA 500 hPa geopotential height variability computed using NCEP/NCAR reanalysis for the period (1948 –2011) (a) PC1 and (b) PC2 (PDF 1833 kb)

382_2014_2166_MOESM3_ESM.pdf

Figure A3: Latitude weighted EOF/PC analysis of daily high-frequency geopotential height anomalies at 500 hPa for the DJFMA season based on ERA-40 reanalysis data for the period (1957 – 2001) (a) Spatial pattern of the first mode EOF1 (b) Spatial pattern of the second mode EOF2 (c) Time series of the standard deviation of PC1 computed for each DJFMA season during 1957–2001. Note the increasing trend of the time-series which is significant at 5 % level. (d) Same as ‘c’ except for PC2. The first and second modes explain 27.8 % and 24.3 % of the total variance respectively (PDF 1347 kb)

Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 20 kb)

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Madhura, R.K., Krishnan, R., Revadekar, J.V. et al. Changes in western disturbances over the Western Himalayas in a warming environment. Clim Dyn 44, 1157–1168 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-014-2166-9

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Keywords

  • Western disturbances
  • Western Himalayas
  • Climate change
  • Precipitation extremes
  • Tibetan Plateau