Articles | Volume 15, issue 14
Research article
22 Jul 2015
Research article |  | 22 Jul 2015

Increasing Arabian dust activity and the Indian summer monsoon

F. Solmon, V. S. Nair, and M. Mallet

Abstract. Over the past decade, aerosol optical depth (AOD) observations based on satellite and ground measurements have shown a significant increase over Arabia and the Arabian Sea, attributed to an intensification of regional dust activity. Recent studies have also suggested that west Asian dust forcing could induce a positive response of Indian monsoon precipitations on a weekly timescale. Using observations and a regional climate model including interactive slab-ocean and dust aerosol schemes, the present study investigates possible climatic links between the increasing June–July–August–September (JJAS) Arabian dust activity and precipitation trends over southern India during the 2000–2009 decade. Meteorological reanalysis and AOD observations suggest that the observed decadal increase of dust activity and a simultaneous intensification of summer precipitation trend over southern India are both linked to a deepening of JJAS surface pressure conditions over the Arabian Sea. In the first part of the study, we analyze the mean climate response to dust radiative forcing over the domain, discussing notably the relative role of Arabian vs. Indo-Pakistani dust regions. In the second part of the study, we show that the model skills in reproducing regional dynamical patterns and southern Indian precipitation trends are significantly improved only when an increasing dust emission trend is imposed on the basis of observations. We conclude that although interannual climate variability might primarily determine the observed regional pattern of increasing dust activity and precipitation during the 2000–2009 decade, the associated dust radiative forcing might in return induce a critical dynamical feedback contributing to enhancing regional moisture convergence and JJAS precipitations over southern India.

Short summary
Using observations and a regional climate model, we suggest that (i) dust radiative forcing over west Asia induces complex regional feedbacks on the Indian monsoon system, notably a possible enhancement of moisture convergence over southern India; and (ii) an observed AOD positive trend attributed to an increasing Arabian dust activity during 2000-2009 could be associated with, and contributing to, the observed enhancement of southern Indian summer precipitation during this decade.
Final-revised paper