Consistent response of Indian summer monsoon to Middle East dust in observations and simulations
Abstract. The response of the Indian summer monsoon (ISM) circulation and precipitation to Middle East dust aerosols on sub-seasonal timescales is studied using observations and the Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled with online chemistry (WRF-Chem). Satellite data show that the ISM rainfall in coastal southwest India, central and northern India, and Pakistan is closely associated with the Middle East dust aerosols. The physical mechanism behind this dust–ISM rainfall connection is examined through ensemble simulations with and without dust emissions. Each ensemble includes 16 members with various physical and chemical schemes to consider the model uncertainties in parameterizing short-wave radiation, the planetary boundary layer, and aerosol chemical mixing rules. Experiments show that dust aerosols increase rainfall by about 0.44 mm day−1 (~10 % of the climatology) in coastal southwest India, central and northern India, and north Pakistan, a pattern consistent with the observed relationship. The ensemble mean rainfall response over India shows a much stronger spatial correlation with the observed rainfall response than any other ensemble members. The largest modeling uncertainties are from the boundary layer schemes, followed by short-wave radiation schemes. In WRF-Chem, the dust aerosol optical depth (AOD) over the Middle East shows the strongest correlation with the ISM rainfall response when dust AOD leads rainfall response by about 11 days. Further analyses show that increased ISM rainfall is related to enhanced southwesterly monsoon flow and moisture transport from the Arabian Sea to the Indian subcontinent, which are associated with the development of an anomalous low-pressure system over the Arabian Sea, the southern Arabian Peninsula, and the Iranian Plateau due to dust-induced heating in the troposphere. The dust-induced heating in the mid-upper troposphere is mainly located in the Iranian Plateau rather than the Tibetan Plateau. This study demonstrates a thermodynamic mechanism that links remote desert dust emissions in the Middle East to ISM circulation and precipitation variability on sub-seasonal timescales, which may have implications for ISM rainfall forecasts.