There are large uncertainties looming over the status and fate of the South Asian summer monsoon, with several studies debating whether the monsoon is weakening or strengthening in a changing climate. Our analysis using multiple observed datasets demonstrates a significant weakening trend in summer rainfall during 1901-2012 over the central-east and northern regions of India, along the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basins and the Himalayan foothills, where agriculture is still largely rain-fed. Earlier studies have suggested an increase in moisture availability and land-sea thermal gradient in the tropics due to anthropogenic warming, favouring an increase in tropical rainfall. Here we show that the land-sea thermal gradient over South Asia has been decreasing, due to rapid warming in the Indian Ocean and a relatively subdued warming over the subcontinent. Using long-term observations and coupled model experiments, we provide compelling evidence that the enhanced Indian Ocean warming potentially weakens the land-sea thermal contrast, dampens the summer monsoon Hadley circulation, and thereby reduces the rainfall over parts of South Asia.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)