Sensitivity of the South Asian monsoon to elevated and non-elevated heating.


Elevated heating by the Tibetan Plateau was long thought to drive the South Asian summer monsoon, but recent work showed this monsoon was largely unaffected by removal of the plateau in a climate model, provided the narrow orography of adjacent mountain ranges was preserved. There is debate about whether those mountain ranges generate a strong monsoon by insulating the thermal maximum from cold and dry extratropical air or by providing a source of elevated heating. Here we show that the strength of the monsoon in a climate model is more sensitive to changes in surface heat fluxes from non-elevated parts of India than it is to changes in heat fluxes from adjacent elevated terrain. This result is consistent with the hypothesis that orography creates a strong monsoon by serving as a thermal insulator, and suggests that monsoons respond most strongly to heat sources coincident with the thermal maximum.

Scientific Reports