Regionalization of present-day precipitation in the greater monsoon region of Asia

Jessica L. Conroy, Jonathan T. Overpeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The spatial domain of the Asian monsoon has been defined by the intensity, seasonal concentration, and annual range of precipitation. Monsoon subdomains, such as the Indian monsoon, East Asian monsoon, and western North Pacific monsoon, have also been identified based on seasonal wind reversals as well as the timing and source of monsoon moisture. However, precipitation across the Asian monsoon region is heterogeneous and spatially complex and may have influences farther north than commonly assumed, particularly if scientists consider records of past variability spanning the current interglacial period. This paper presents an additional means of identifying the Asian monsoon domain and monsoon subsystems using an empirical orthogonal function (EOF)-based regionalization of gridded precipitation values. Regions of unique precipitation variability for the Asian monsoon region are determined using monthly precipitation anomalies from the Climate Prediction Center Merged Analysis of Precipitation (CMAP) gridded precipitation dataset from 1979 to 2009. From these regions, an area of Asian monsoon influence extending from the Arabian Sea eastward to the western North Pacific Ocean is defined, similar to other studies. One key difference is that this region of monsoon influence penetrates farther north into the Tibetan Plateau and northern China. Thus, paleoclimate observations of wetter conditions in these northern arid regions may suggest an intensification of monsoon moisture, rather than a northward shift in the boundary of themonsoon. In contrast, the Arabian Peninsula, largely removed from monsoon precipitation today, likely saw a shift of monsoon influence inland earlier in the Holocene. Also identified are different subdomains of distinct precipitation variability in southeastern Asia, the western North Pacific, and the East Asian monsoon region of northeastern China that agree with previous studies. Not identified in the paper is a single Indian summer monsoon region. Instead, the Arabian Sea was found to have unique precipitation variability relative to the Indian subcontinent. Summers with enhanced precipitation over the Arabian Sea coincide with decreased summer precipitation in the western North Pacific. This relationship is likely a result of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-induced development of the Philippine Sea anticyclone. Local and remote sea surface temperatures were generally found to covary with regional precipitation, but not all regions respond similarly to the remote climate variability associated with ENSO. There is some evidence that the EOF-defined regions were stable through the Holocene, although additional regionalization analyses of paleorecords and model simulations of past precipitation variability are needed to reconstruct past regions of coherent precipitation variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4073-4095
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Asia
  • ENSO
  • Empirical orthogonal functions
  • Monsoons
  • Precipitation
  • Regional effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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