U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Role of West Asian Desert Dust in Modulating Indian Monsoon
Published: March 16, 2014
Posted: August 11, 2014

The Indian summer monsoon rains are essential for providing the region’s water supply. Recent shifts in timing and strength have challenged scientists to unravel the complex factors that influence monsoon activity. Monsoons result from a complex interplay between solar warming of the air and land surface, dynamical circulation between land and ocean regions, and cloud-aerosol interactions, in addition to various other factors. However, the influence of aerosols alone on monsoon activity seems to be complex and uncertain. Previous theories have examined the roles of both pollution and natural desert dust aerosols. A team of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Bhubaneswar, India, used satellite data and models to show that desert dust aerosol levels over fairly remote regions of the Arabian Sea, West Asia, and Arabian Peninsula are positively correlated with the intensity of summer monsoon rainfall over India. They showed that dust and summer monsoon precipitation vary in concert over timescales of about a week. Global climate model simulations using the DOE/National Science Foundation-sponsored Community Atmosphere Model (CAM5) support this remote link and indicate that, since dust suspended in the atmosphere absorbs solar heating, the variability in dust aerosol loadings can induce larger-scale atmospheric circulation changes, modulating moisture transport over the Arabian Sea and moisture flow into India, thereby changing monsoon rainfall on relatively short time scales. These findings highlight the importance of natural aerosols in influencing the strength of the Indian summer monsoon. Such an aerosol-induced remote link to monsoons was not known before, and the study clearly shows that aerosols of natural origin can have remote effects on large-scale circulations with important implications.

Reference: Vinoj, V., P. J. Rasch, H. Wang, J.-H. Yoon, P.-L. Ma, K. Landu, and B. Singh. 2014. “Short-Term Modulation of Indian Summer Monsoon Rainfall by West Asian Dust,” Nature Geoscience 7, 308-13. DOI:10.1038/NGEO2107. (Reference link)

Contact: Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Atmospheric System Research

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)