Annual cycle of Southeast Asia - Maritime continent rainfall and the asymmetric monsoon transition

  • Chang C
  • Wang Z
  • McBride J
 et al. 
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In general, the Bay of Bengal, Indochina Peninsula, and Philippines are in the Asian summer monsoon regime while the Maritime Continent experiences a wet monsoon during boreal winter and a dry season during boreal summer. However, the complex distribution of land, sea, and terrain results in significant local variations of the annual cycle. This work uses historical station rainfall data to classify the annual cycles of rainfall over land areas, the TRMM rainfall measurements to identify the monsoon regimes of the four seasons in all of Southeast Asia, and the QuikSCAT winds to study the causes of the variations. The annual cycle is dominated largely by interactions between the complex terrain and a simple annual reversal of the surface monsoonal winds throughout all monsoon regions from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea and the equatorial western Pacific. The semiannual cycle is comparable in magnitude to the annual cycle over parts of the equatorial landmasses, but only a very small region reflects the twice- yearly crossing of the sun. Most of the semiannual cycle appears to be due to the influence of both the summer and the winter monsoon in the western part of the Maritime Continent where the annual cycle maximum occurs in fall. Analysis of the TRMM data reveals a structure whereby the boreal summer and winter monsoon rainfall regimes intertwine across the equator and both are strongly affected by the wind–terrain interaction. In particular, the boreal winter regime extends far northward along the eastern flanks of the major island groups and landmasses. A hypothesis is presented to explain the asymmetric seasonal march in which the maximum convection follows a gradual southeastward progression path from the Asian summer monsoon to the Asian winter monsoon but experiences a sudden transition in the reverse. The hypothesis is based on the redistribution of mass between land and ocean areas during spring and fall that results from different land–ocean thermal memories. This mass redistribution between the two transition seasons produces sea level patterns leading to asymmetric wind–terrain interactions throughout the region, and a low-level divergence asymmetry in the region that promotes the southward march of maximum convection during boreal fall but opposes the northward march during boreal spring.

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  • C. P. Chang

  • Zhuo Wang

  • John McBride

  • Ching Hwang Liu

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