Potential vorticity structure and propagation mechanism of Indian monsoon depressions


Indian monsoon depressions are synoptic-scale storms that form primarily over the Bay of Bengal and propagate westward over the subcontinent, producing a large fraction of India’s total summer precipitation. We recently showed that, contrary to long-standing ideas, the westward propagation of Indian monsoon depressions is accomplished primarily by horizontal adiabatic advection of potential vorticity (PV), not by vortex stretching or diabatic PV generation that occurs in the region of quasi-geostrophic ascent southwest of the vortex center. This chapter extends that work by using several reanalysis products to examine case studies of Indian monsoon depressions. In all reanalyses examined, monsoon depressions have maximum PV in the middle troposphere, at higher altitudes than the level of maximum relative vorticity. The horizontal structure of mid-tropospheric PV suggests that the axial asymmetry of the vortex that produces the nonlinear westward advection may result at least partly from diabatic heating. Thus, although storm motion is produced primarily by horizontal adiabatic advection, diabatic heating can play an indirect role by shaping the PV field that produces this advection.

The Global Monsoon System: Research and Forecast