On the Origin of Monsoon
The notion that the continental-scale land-sea contrast is the main reason that monsoon circulation exists has been a long-held belief. The purpose of this paper is to point out that this notion should be substantially modified. The central idea of this notion states that in summer, radiative heating of the continent, say Asia, gives rise to a continental-scale thermal low and surrounding the thermal low in its southeast direction the low level wind flows in from south-west. This low-level inflow creates a convergence of moisture, which maintains the cumulus convection. And in winter, radiative cooling of continent gives rise to a thermal high and to its southeast the low-level wind is from northeast. The mechanism in this interpretation does undoubtedly exist. However, this mechanism, though believed to be the main driving force of monsoon, has not been tested in numerical experiments. There has been an increasing recognition in the recent years that monsoon is inextricably tied to the heating in the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). We propose that the main cause of monsoon is ITCZ's being substantially away from the equator. A brief qualitative explanation of why the ITCZ can be a source of monsoon circulation can be offered based on the circulation field forced by the ITCZ heating. The existence of the ITCZ's does not always have to rely on land-sea contrast on the continental scale. This is hinted in the fact that in February the ITCZ close to Australia (and its associated monsoon circulation) covers a longitudinal range several times as long as that of Australia and thus cannot possibly be caused mainly by the land-sea contrast associated with Australia. Yet, this cannot be used as a proof that the ITCZ in the Asian summer monsoon is not mainly due to land-sea contrast. One of the purposes of this work is to provide a convincing proof. In this work the role of land-sea contrast in the origin of monsoon is examined through numerical simulation with the Goddard general circulation model. The Asian and Australian monsoon circulations are obtained in a four-year integration and then the integration is repeated with Asia, the maritime continent, and Australia replaced by ocean. The sea surface temperature (SST) at each affected grid is specified as the SST at the first grid to the east that is an ocean grid in the first experiment. The latter integration shows that the monsoon circulation pattern over where south Asia and Australia were and the surrounding region has largely remained. The results discount land-sea contrast as the main cause of Asian monsoon. A third experiment is the same as the first except that the topography of Asia, the maritime continent, and Australia is reduced to zero. This experiment reveals that the difference between the first two experiments is due more to the removal of topography than to the removal of land-sea contrast. August precipitation is shown averaged over the last three years of each of the three experiments. They show that the Asian monsoon rainy region is largely intact in the second experiment and the difference between the second and the third experiment is mainly in the longitudinal location of the maximum precipitation. Additionally, in Asian and Australian winter monsoons land-sea contrast also plays only a modifying role. Although land-sea contrast plays only a modifying role in Asian and Australian (and Central American including Mexican) monsoons, it is the main reason that ITCZ (and thus monsoon) exists in Africa and South America. Thus, monsoons can be classified into two groups depending on whether land-sea contrast plays a major role.