Observational evaluation of a convective quasi-equilibrium view of monsoons


Idealized dynamical theories that employ a convective quasi-equilibrium (QE) treatment for the diabatic effects of moist convection have been used to explain the location, intensity, and intraseasonal evolution of monsoons. This paper examines whether observations of the earth’s regional monsoons are consistent with the assumption of QE. It is shown here that in local summer climatologies based on reanalysis data, maxima of free-tropospheric temperature are, indeed, nearly collocated with maxima of subcloud equivalent potential temperature, $\theta_{eb}$, in all monsoon regions except the North and South American monsoons. Free-tropospheric temperatures over North Africa also exhibit a strong remote influence from the South Asian monsoon. Consistent with idealized dynamical theories, peak precipitation falls slightly equatorward of the maxima in $\theta_{eb}$ and free-tropospheric temperature in regions where QE seems to hold. Vertical structures of temperature and wind reveal two types of monsoon circulations. One is the deep, moist baroclinic circulation clearly seen in the South Asian monsoon. The other is of mixed type, with the deep moist circulation superimposed on a shallow dry circulation closely associated with boundary layer temperature gradients. While the existence of a shallow dry circulation has been documented extensively in the North African monsoon, here it is shown to also exist in Australia and southern Africa during the local summer. Analogous to moist QE theories for the deep circulation, the shallow circulation can be viewed in a dry QE framework in which shallow ascent occurs just equatorward of the peak boundary layer potential temperature, $\theta_b$, providing a unified system where the poleward extents of deep and shallow circulations are bounded by maxima in $\theta_{eb}$ and $\theta_b$, respectively

Journal of Climate