Monsoon intensity in India enhanced by heat captured by desert dust from the Middle East

From the UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN comes this interesting study. Like dust from the Sahara enhances tropical storm formation near the Cape Verde Islands, so does dust from the Middle East enhance rainfall during the monsoon season in India.


indian-monsoon-season

Monsoon rains fall on the green valleys of Madhya Pradesh, India. CREDIT Rajarshi Mitra

Variations in the ability of sand particles kicked into the atmosphere from deserts in the Middle East to absorb heat can change the intensity of the Indian Summer Monsoon, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin.

The research was published July 28 in Scientific Reports, an open access journal from the publishers of Nature.

The Indian monsoon is a period of intense rainfall that more than a billion people rely on to bring rains to farmland. The results of the study could help improve monsoon prediction models, which usually use a constant value for sand particles’ heat-absorbing ability. Because the absorbing ability varies greatly with region and time, assigning a constant heat-absorbing ability for the particles tends to underestimate the impact that absorbed heat can have on the monsoon system, the authors said.

The study was led by Qinjian Jin, a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who conducted the research while earning his Ph.D. at The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences. He collaborated with Zong-Liang Yang, a professor in the Jackson School’s Department of Geological Sciences, and Jiangfeng Wei, a research scientist in the department.

The deserts of the Middle East are a large source of “mineral dust,” small particles of sand that are brought into the atmosphere by wind and thermals. Once in the atmosphere, the dust can heat parts of the atmosphere by absorbing energy from sunlight.

The researchers found that mineral dust that originates in the Middle East can strengthen the Indian Summer Monsoon by heating the atmosphere above the Iranian Plateau and the Arabian Sea. But the dust’s ability to absorb heat affected how much the dust influenced the monsoon. Dust that absorbed heat more efficiently was linked with increases in monsoon rainfall.

dust-indian-monsoon

This is a figure depicting dust-monsoon interactions. The positive feedback between dust emissions,atmospheric heating, and shamal winds is seen as a cycle over the Middle East and the Arabian Sea. CREDIT Qinjian Jin

“The heating ability of dust aerosols largely determines how the monsoon responds to dust,” Jin said.

The researchers examined the impact of mineral dust on monsoon strength by creating seven high-resolution computer simulations that varied the heat absorption of the mineral dust.

The Indian Summer Monsoon accounts for up to 80 percent of the annual rainfall in the Indian subcontinent. Increasing the strength of the monsoon can lead to flooding that can cause massive losses in life and crops. Jin said that for climate models to accurately capture monsoon behavior, they must account for the variability in mineral dust’s heat absorption.

“This heating is represented in very different ways in different climate models, and is one of the factors responsible for inconsistency of climate model results,” Jin said. “This study addresses the necessity for developing a new method to represent dust heating in climate models.”

While this study focused on mineral dust’s heat-absorption abilities, Jin said he is planning future research on how the dust particles can influence climate by changing cloud formation and behavior.

“Dust particles have been shown to be efficient ice nuclei, which may influence the monsoon by changing clouds’ properties,” Jin said.

Future research also needs to consider other dust processes, such as the surface erodibility of different dust source regions and how dust enters into the atmosphere, both of which have been studied by Yang and his other collaborators.

“Ultimately, this integrated research will improve our understanding of complex dust-monsoon interactions,” Yang said.

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45 thoughts on “Monsoon intensity in India enhanced by heat captured by desert dust from the Middle East

  1. What a TOTALLY photoshopped topknot photo. Jeez… Looks like the coming of the end. Oh well… it isn’t. Its a vital force for India, and it must be celebrated. Without monsoon, the whole of India would be a great big desert, except for some coastal margins.

    • That’s not a photoshopped photo… I think that is actually their computer program output. Their technology is the most advanced in the world after all. Interesting however to see dust rise to the fore again after the post on dust possibly ending the last period of glaciation.

  2. Weren’t they saying extreme drought in India just a few years ago? And the snows in the Himalayan Mnts were suppose to disappear? Climate science seems to change as fast as the weather.

    • From deserts in the Middle East to India. In July (summertime NH) the temperatures in the Indian subcontinent are very high. Therefore the air rises and the low pressure area attracts wind at sea level from the other side of the equator. The coriolis force north of the equator makes the southern wind turn to the east. The monsoon windsystem is half yearly. For an image of the pressure and the wind at this moment: https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/overlay=mean_sea_level_pressure/orthographic=61.08,13.70,587/loc=65.513,14.102 Click on the map for pressure, windforce and winddirection at that location. Wind at surface level.

      • Many/much of the wonderful animations at Earth nullschool are exactly that, animations from models; not actual data.
        Nor does the Earth nullschool animation cover the entire year in one screen, representing the onset, period or end of the monsoon seasons and air/moisture circulation.
        https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/59/India_southwest_summer_monsoon_onset_map_en.svg/680px-India_southwest_summer_monsoon_onset_map_en.svg.png

        “…The researchers examined the impact of mineral dust on monsoon strength by creating seven high-resolution computer simulations that varied the heat absorption of the mineral dust…”

        They should inform India, that the India monsoons react to one variable.
        http://www.imd.gov.in/pages/monsoon_main.php

        “…“Dust particles have been shown to be efficient ice nuclei, which may influence the monsoon by changing clouds’ properties,” Jin said…”

        This research is somebody’s what if coding wet dream, assumptive leaps, then filled in with quotes of accepted knowledge.
        Whatever happen to filtering rainwater for particles that can be tested? Then seeking those particle sources?

      • ATheoK: “Many/much of the wonderful animations at Earth nullschool are exactly that, animations from models; not actual data.”
        WR: “Not actual data”. Nullschool gives the following information:
        a visualization of global weather conditions
        forecast by supercomputers
        updated every three hours
        ocean surface current estimates
        updated every five days
        ocean surface temperatures and
        anomaly from daily average (1981-2011)
        updated daily
        ocean waves
        updated every three hours
        https://earth.nullschool.net/about.html

  3. Climate modeler – “We can’t even model clouds properly and now we have to worry about dust!” – Throws pencil across room, opens desk drawer and removes bottle …
    Given that CO2 is greening the planet, does that mean there is less dust available for the monsoons?

    • Dennis Early on July 28, 2016 at 9:58 am
      A bit puzzled by this.Watching Atlantic hurricane formation, an important element is Sahara dust. Westerly winds off N. Africa bring dust into the Atlantic and DRY air.
      ______________________________
      No, Dennis. A high, located above the Azores, under coriolis effect shovels sahara dust over the atlantic into the amazon region where the sahara dust condensation nuclei get rained out over the west Brazilian rainforests just before thei’re forced to rise up the Andes.
      ______________________________
      OK with you?

  4. A bit puzzled by this.Watching Atlantic hurricane formation, an important element is Sahara dust. Westerly winds off N. Africa bring dust into the Atlantic and DRY air. That suppresses storm formation. Not sure what the atmospheric heat increase caused by this dust has to do with anything?

  5. Weren’t we recently told particulates (aerosols to be specific) were suppressing hurricanes?
    This study suggests dusty droughts lead to heavier Monsoon rains…which in turn would chase away droughts and weaken subsequent Monsoon events, making dusty droughts more likey. Nice natural counter-balancing

  6. until we include “persistent” contrails the IPCC talk about in these studies I am just checking out
    The sky here in Helsinki was plastered in miles long trails that ended up clouds.

    • on otherwise clear sky hot days. I took lots of photos that show they were indeed turning into clouds.

  7. “The Indian monsoon is a period of intense rainfall that more than a billion people rely on to bring rains to farmland. The results of the study could help improve monsoon prediction models, which usually use a constant value for sand particles’ heat-absorbing ability. Because the absorbing ability varies greatly with region and time, assigning a constant heat-absorbing ability for the particles tends to underestimate the impact that absorbed heat can have on the monsoon system, the authors said.”
    ____________________________________________
    Why I’m not astounded:
    The Indian monsoon is a period of intense rainfall that more than a billion people rely on to bring rains to farmland. The results of the study could help improve monsoon prediction models,
    Because the absorbing ability varies greatly with region and time, assigning a constant heat-absorbing ability for the particles
    tends to underestimate the impact that absorbed heat can have on the monsoon system, the authors said.
    ____________________________________________
    The monsoon prediction models,
    tends to underestimate the impact that absorbed heat can have on the monsoon system, the authors said.
    ____________________________________________
    The prediction models tend to underestimate the impact the authors said.
    ____________________________________________
    Not astounded at all. Same as it ever was.

    • Exact same, even down to otherwise clear sky, hot day, and this ^^
      Should studies not consider this as it is pretty much almost global.?

      • Yes I know they are cirrus, it’s the transformation of contrail into cloud I am asking about. I admit my knowledge in this is limited.

      • Nothing very remarkable about it. Jet engine effluents doesn’t contain only CO2 and H2O, but also lots of small particles. If an aircraft flies through a zone which is oversaturated but short of condensation nuclei these particles (and the ice crystals in the contrail) act as condensation nuclei and a cirrus cloud results as the nuclei disperse.
        Usually the air is undersaturated, and contrails either doesn´t form (the most common case, it’s just that you usually don’t notice those aircraft) or the ice crystals sublimate relatively quickly, and the contrails disappear.

      • Me too, I just looked out the window, 9am here in Finland, there is a miles long Y in the sky, two interconnecting persistent contrails

      • and more often than not, they connect to large cloud systems, which is what seeders do as far as I know

      • I have no idea, I can see a change, a big change in the skies, so can many, I just want to know why. I dont know why.

  8. Cloud seeding: Cloud seeding is a technique of artificial rainmaking at a given place and time through injecting artificial condensation nuclei in to the clouds [Cloud Seeding: Myths and Realities, Proc. of AP Akademi of Sciences, 8:109-117, 2004]. That means we need clouds as a pre-requisite with a large misfit between theoretical and practical aspects. Commercial seeding was carried in India. They seeded only when there is low pressure system. This affected the rainfall in the downwind direction. This was noted in Indian experiments. This was more clearly evident in Chinese exercise to control rains in sports arena during Olympics. So, the theory of dust acting as nuclei has little significance on India monsoons.
    Southeastern Parts: Though 78% of rainfalls during June to September on an average during the southwest monsoon season – it is not fixed but extend up to May and October in some years] with a coefficient of variation of 9.9% — coefficient of variation of annual rainfall presents 19.5%. The southeastern parts adjacent to Bay of Bengal presents a different picture as this region receives rainfall during southwest monsoon and as well during northeast monsoon season [October to December] and this later season rainfall is controlled by the frequency of occurrence of cyclonic activity in Bay of Bengall. In the three met sub-divisions [32 total for India], Coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema and Telangana respectively present 52, 60 & 80% of annual rainfall in southwest monsoon with the coefficient of variations varied between 22 and 29%; and 39, 29 & 11% of annual rainfall in northeast monsoon with the coefficient of variations varied between 38 and 60%. Accordingly water resources availability varied over different parts for dry-land agriculture.
    Orography: Indian rainfall is controlled by orography like Western Ghats – north to south – and Himalayan Mountains [box effect]. In the case of Western Ghats, during southwest monsoon [June to September] copious rains fall on the Western side and little rains on the eastern side, known as shadow zone. The highest rainfalls in the north and eastern parts with box effect that created by Himalayan Mountains. In the northeast monsoon season, the shadow zone regions get copious rains with cyclonic activity. So, in this zone drought risk is high as seen from the variability in the northeast monsoon rainfall.
    Natural variability: Presented natural variability issue in my books [for the global issues: Agroclimatic/Agrometeorological Techniques: As applicable to dry-land agriculture in developing countries, 1993 & Specific to Andhra Pradesh & India: Andhra Pradesh Agriculture: Scenario of the last four decades, 2000]. All India Southwest Monsoon rainfall presented a 60 year cycle – coinciding with the 60 year astrological calendar used by Telugu people of India –. Two 60-year cycles completed and third cycle started in 1987 and will continue upto around 2046. The first 30-years [upto 2016] being in above the average pattern of sine curve. The Andhra Pradesh rainfall: southwest monsoon rainfall presented opposite to northeast monsoon rainfall with cyclonic activity following the northeast monsoon rainfall pattern. Both followed 56 year cycle. However, the monsoons cut-off periods are different in different years, the annual rainfall presented 132 year cycle. Below the average 66 year cycle part of the sine curve ended by 1935 [in this 24 years fall under deficit and 12 years under excess] and above the average 66 year cycle part of the sine curve ended by 2000 [in this 24 years fall under excess and 12 years under deficit]. Now since 2001 the pattern existed prior to 1935 is operation – more deficit years so far.
    Current monsoon rainfall: Good monsoon, but 25% of India still thirsting for rains. 178 districts have received scanty or deficit rainfall. In the state of Madhya Pradesh received excess rains in 27 districts, normal in 20 districts and deficit in 3 districts. In the state of Gujarat received scanty rains in 8 districts, deficit in 16 districts and normal in two districts. In the state of Odisha the rainfall is deficit in 12 districts, normal in 17 districts and excess in one district.
    Studies of local/regional agro-climate provide the appropriate information to adapt the agriculture as was evolved by forefathers of the regions with their experience. Without that the risk in agriculture increases with chemical input-GM technologies.
    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    • Thanks for that Dr R.
      I read a paper on cloud seeing affecting forest growth, silver iodide in forest soils “may” prevent NH4 and NO3 reaching roots.
      If it is cloud seeding, then there is a massive operation of cloud seeding here in Finland. Ireland US Canada Russia UK and Europe. I wonder why such a common frequent thing is not discussed more openly
      It begs questions like, is this governmental or private operations. I know for example a lot of this cloud seeding goes on in Colorado but it’s not via planes.
      Furthermore, I can see some planes leave persistent contrails that spread out over the sky, and at the same time other contrails that are gone 60 seconds after the plane passes, I just seen it now this morning, a massive Y in the sky, two interconnecting contrails and a plane flying through it with a contrail maybe 50 lengths of the plane creating it, it doesn’t last longer than a minute
      I know this is off topic, but it’s hard to discuss, thanks to the myriad of lunatic CS theorists out there who talk of complete nonsense.
      I am not sold on cloud seeding, and this is so prevalent that it has to be having an effect, and I wonder why this is not more widely studied and discussed anyone claiming the skies have not changed is blind. Completely clear sunny days are so rare now

      • In India both warm and cold clouds modification experiments were conducted by National Physical Laboratory (NPL)/New Delhi during 957-66 and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM)/Pune — PRL department transferred to IITM — from 1967 to 1986. Government of India stopped funding this project as there were no positive results to continue it. Later the state government hired a US based company to carryout cloud seeding to augment precipitation. This was given to JNTUH [university] to monitor guide this. They constituted a technical committee to evaluate the results. The technical committee found that the company is seeding only low pressure system clouds. We found this affect the precipitation in downwind direction. The company refused to seed non-low pressure system clouds saying there is no such thing in our agrement. Later, I brouht to the notice of the state government the negative impact of this seeding. The government stopped the experiments though initially wanted to extend for further five years as proposed by the Agriculture Minister.
        Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    • If dust act as nuclei, it still would not explain a persistent trail, the ice crystals would have to melt first, and from what I can see they are not melting, they are spreading out into clouds, which is not cloud formation

  9. The way I see it is if there are wide spread seeding operations then there is more waver vapor and more GHG effect.
    But as far as I can read, total water vapor doesn’t reflect any large increase, though, it would not take such a massive increase to affect forcing to be honest

  10. I guess my concern is there is a private effort to boost global temps, but it would be a massive leap to claim so, so I am not claiming that is the case, but given the power behind the global warming CAGW movement anything is possible

  11. This is from Contrail science which is anti CS theory type explanations
    This is normal air traffic left and no traffic right after the Icelandic volcano went off and planes were grounded.
    So, if air traffic can do this, that is having a big effect. This affects weather and long term it affects climate.
    http://contrailscience.com/skitch/United_Kingdom_Ireland.2010107.aqua.1km.jpeg-20100418-080733.jpg
    So cloud seeding is not the cause according to these images?
    http://contrailscience.com/skitch/United_Kingdom_Ireland.2010107.aqua.1km.jpeg-20100418-080733.jpg

    • Given how large an area this covers and is so common, there should be lots a ton of high profile studies on this, yet… there is not

      • Sorry folks, totally OT, it’s just that there are few places to discuss this with reasonable people. My bad Sorry Anthony

  12. So, a researcher in Texas (re)discovers that dust in the air can causes the temperature of the air to change. By golly, I think they have (re(discovered the Dirty Thirties! (The Dust Bowl days of the 1930s in the Great Plains region of North America.)
    Hot dawg, ain’t all this modern technology just amazing?

  13. Hope that thread is not left from April 1st.
    Jin and Yang. Other –
    “Dust particles have been shown to be efficient ice nuclei, which may influence the monsoon by changing clouds’ properties,” Jin said.
    Future research also needs to consider other dust processes, such as the surface erodibility of different dust source regions and how dust enters into the atmosphere, both of which have been studied by Yang and his other collaborators.
    – yes, OK with me.

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