A numerical study of the hydrometeorological dryline in Northwest India during the monsoon

Sen Chiao, Ana P. Barros

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This objective of this study is to elucidate the processes that govern the space-time persistence of the hydrometeorological dryline in Northwest India. The working hypothesis is that orographic forcing and land-atmosphere interactions via soil moisture and vegetation processes lock the hydrometeorological line to the Aravalli range and the Thar Desert (a.k.a. the Great Indian Desert). For this purpose, simulations of active and break phases of the 2001 monsoon season were conducted using a mesoscale model (MM5). During the active phases of the monsoon, southeasterly depressions from the Bay of Bengal propagate over northern India, maintaining sustained convergence of moist available energy east of the Aravalli range, leading to increased rainfall and cloudiness patterns consistent with deep convective activity. Drier air originating from the Arabian Sea in the Western Indian Ocean is constrained to the west. During monsoon break phases, moisture convergence from the Bay of Bengal to the Northern India Convergence Zone (NICZ) decreases dramatically, weakening regional circulations east of the Aravalli range. This allows ventilation of the central portion of the NICZ through penetration of westerly dry air, leading to reduced rainfall, lower soil wetness, decrease of latent heat fluxes, and finally lower CAPE and humidity in the lower troposphere. Whereas the inland propagation of monsoon depressions from the Bay of Bengal triggers the onset (demise) of active and break periods, the sustainability of either regime requires strong feedbacks between humidity and stability in the lower troposphere and the surface energy balance: negative in the case of monsoon breaks, positive in the case of active periods. This study shows that, albeit relatively modest (<600 m average elevation), the Aravalli provides sufficient lift (upwind) and descend (downwind) to organize the spatial distribution of updrafts westward (active phase) and eastward (break phase) of the topographic divide in such a way that low level updrafts are nearly suppressed over the Thar Desert. Sensitivity experiments with modified soil and vegetation cover show that daytime latent heat fluxes (and evapotranspiration) play an important role in the spatial orgnization of CAPE and in triggering light rainfall processes in the semi-arid regions of northwest India, whereas the occurrence of heavy rainfall to the east of the Aravalli range is controlled by largescale monsoon dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-361
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of the Meteorological Society of Japan
Volume85 A
Issue numberSPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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