The significant multi-decadal mode (MDM) of the Indian summer monsoon rainfall (ISMR) during the past two millennia provides a basis for decadal predictability of the ISMR and has a strong association with the North-Atlantic (NA) variability with the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO) as a potential external driver. It is also known that the annual cycles and interannual variability of ISMR and sea surface temperatures (SST) over the tropical Indian Ocean (IO) are strongly coupled. However, the role of local air–sea interactions in maintaining or modifying the ISMR MDM remains unknown. A related puzzle we identify is that the IO SST has an increasing trend during two opposite phases of the ISMR MDM, namely during an increasing phase of ISMR (1901–1957) as well as a decreasing phase of ISMR (1958–2007). Here, using a twentieth-century reanalysis (20CR), we examine the role of air-sea interactions in maintaining two opposite phases of the ISMR MDM and unravel that the Bjerknes feedback is at the heart of maintaining the ISMR MDM but cannot explain the increasing trend of SST in the tropical IO during the opposite phases. Large-scale low-level vorticity influence on SST and net heat flux changes through circulation and cloudiness changes associated with the two phases of the ISMR MDM together contribute to the SST trends. The decreasing trend of low-level wind convergence during the period between 1958 and 2007 is a determining factor for the decreasing trend of ISMR in the backdrop of an increasing trend of atmospheric moisture content. Consistent with the lead of the AMO with respect to ISMR by about a decade, the AMO drives the transition from one phase of ISMR MDM to another by changing its phase first and setting up low-level equatorial zonal winds conducive for the transition.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science