Attribution of the recent intensification of Northern Hemisphere summer monsoon and tropical circulation

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Thursday, 6 February 2014: 1:30 PM
Room C102 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
B. Wang, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI; and J. Liu, H. J. Kim, P. J. Webster, S. Y. Yim, and B. Xiang

Prediction of monsoon changes in the coming decades is important for infrastructure planning and sustainable economic development. The decadal prediction involves both natural decadal variability and anthropogenic forcing. Hitherto, the causes of the decadal variability of Northern Hemisphere summer monsoon (NHSM) are largely unknown because the monsoons over Asia, West Africa, and North America have been studied primarily on a regional basis, which is unable to identify coherent decadal changes and the overriding controls on planetary scales. Here, we show that, during the recent global warming of about 0.4 °C since the late 1970s, a coherent decadal change of precipitation and circulation emerges in the entirety of the NHSM system. Surprisingly, the NHSM as well as the Hadley and Walker circulations have all shown substantial intensification, with a striking increase of NHSM rainfall by 9.5% per degree of global warming. This is unexpected from recent theoretical prediction and model projections of the 21st century. The intensification is primarily attributed to a mega-El Niņo/ Southern Oscillation (a leading mode of interannual-to-interdecadal variation of global sea surface temperature) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, and further influenced by hemispherical asymmetric global warming. These factors driving the present changes of the NHSM system are instrumental for understanding and predicting future decadal changes and determining the proportions of climate change that are attributable to anthropogenic effects and long-term internal variability in the complex climate system.