Policy Documents

Indian Monsoon Variability in a Global Warming Scenario

R. H. Kripalani, Ashwini Kulkarni, S. S. Sabade, M. L Khandekar –
June 1, 2003

(Originally posted at ingentaconnect.com)

Abstract:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) constituted by the World Meteorological Organisation provides expert guidance regarding scientific and technical aspects of the climate problem. Since 1990 IPCC has, at five-yearlyintervals, assessedand reported on the current state of knowledge and understanding of the climate issue. These reports have projected the behaviour of the Asian monsoon in the warming world. While the IPCC Second Assessment Report (IPCC, 1996) on climate model projections of Asian/Indian monsoon stated ``Most climate models produce more rainfall over South Asia in a warmer climate with increasing CO2'', the recent IPCC (2001) Third Assessment Report states ``It is likely that the warming associated with increasing greenhouse gas concentrations will cause an increase in Asian summer monsoon variability and changes in monsoon strength.''

Climate model projections(IPCC, 2001) also suggest more El Niño – like events in the tropical Pacific, increase in surface temperatures and decrease in the northern hemisphere snow cover. The Indian Monsoon is an important component of the Asian monsoon and its links with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, northern hemisphere surface temperature and Eurasian snow are well documented.

In the light of the IPCC globalwarming projections on the Asian monsoon, the interannual and decadal variability in summer monsoon rainfall over India and its teleconnections have been examined by using observed data for the 131-year (1871–2001) period. While the interannual variations showyear-to-year random fluctuations, thedecadal variations reveal distinct alternate epochs of above and below normal rainfall. The epochs tend to last for about three decades. There is no clear evidence to suggest that the strength and variability of the Indian Monsoon Rainfall (IMR) nor the epochal changes are affected by the global warming. Though the 1990s have been the warmest decade of the millennium(IPCC, 2001), the IMR variability has decreased drastically.

Connections between the ENSO phenomenon, Northern Hemisphere surface temperature and the Eurasian snow with IMR reveal that the correlations are not only weak but have changed signs in the early 1990s suggesting that the IMR has delinked not only with the Pacific but with the Northern Hemisphere/Eurasian continent also. The fact that temperature/snow relationships with IMR are weak further suggests that global warming need not be a cause for the recent ENSO-Monsoon weakening.

Observed snow depth over theEurasian continent has been increasing, which could be a result of enhanced precipitation due to the global warming.