Himalayas could be greater driver of South Asian monsoon than Tibetan Plateau

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Washington, Jan. 14 (ANI): In a new research, scientists at the Harvard University have suggested that the Himalayas and other surrounding mountains could be a far greater source of heat and moisture that drives the South Asian monsoon rather than the Tibetan Plateau.

The findings, published in the January 14th issue of Nature, have broad implications for how the Asian climate may have responded to mountain uplift in the past, and for how it might respond to surface changes in the coming decades.

"The South Asian monsoon supplies water to billions of people, many of whom live in developing nations and agricultural societies that are highly vulnerable to variations in this water supply," co-author Zhiming Kuang, Assistant Professor of Climate Science in Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) said.

Scientists have long theorized that the massive release of heat from the surface of the Tibetan Plateau has been a major contributor to the strength of the monsoon.

However, Kuang and his colleague William Boos, Daly Postdoctoral Fellow in EPS and an environmental fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE), used an atmospheric circulation model to show that the large-scale South Asian summer monsoon circulation remains unaffected when the plateau is removed.

They found that the narrow geography of the Himalayas and other nearby mountain ranges can, in fact, produce an equally strong monsoon by insulating warm, moist air over continental India from the cold dry extratropics.

By considering the influence of both the plateau and the mountains on the strength of the monsoon, the Harvard researchers expect a clearer picture will emerge about the potential changes in the South Asian water supply in the coming decades.

"Ultimately, our revised view has implications for future projections of how the South Asian monsoon might be altered in a warmer world and can be used to infer aspects about the earth's climate history," Boos said.

The revised theory, emphasizing the important role the mountains play in trapping warm and moist air, suggests that climate scientists should pay as much attention to changes over the Indian subcontinent due to, for example, land use. (ANI)

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