An important mechanism sustaining the atmospheric "water tower" over the Tibetan Plateau
Abstract. The Tibetan Plateau (TP), referred to as the "roof of the world", is also known as the "world water tower" because it contains a large amount of water resources and ceaselessly transports these waters to its surrounding areas. However, it is not clear how these waters are being supplied and replenished. In particular, how plausible hydrological cycles can be realized between tropical oceans and the TP. In order to explore the mechanism sustaining the atmospheric "water tower" over the TP, the relationship of a "heat source column" over the plateau and moist flows in the Asian summer monsoon circulation is investigated. Here we show that the plateau's thermal structure leads to dynamic processes with an integration of two couplings of lower convergence zones and upper divergences, respectively, over the plateau's southern slopes and main platform, which relay moist air in two ladders up to the plateau. Similarly to the CISK (conditional instability of the second kind) mechanism of tropical cyclones, the elevated warm–moist air, in turn, forces convective weather systems, hence building a water cycle over the plateau. An integration of mechanical and thermal TP forcing is revealed in relation to the Asian summer monsoon circulation knitting a close tie of vapor transport from tropical oceans to the atmospheric "water tower" over the TP.