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Fundamental to the onset of the Indian Summer Monsoon is the land-sea thermal gradient from the Indian Ocean to the Himalayas-Tibetan Plateau (HTP). The timing of the onset is strongly controlled by the meridional tropospheric temperature gradient due to the rapid premonsoon heating of the HTP compared to the relatively cooler Indian Ocean. Analysis of tropospheric temperatures from the longest available record of microwave satellite measurements reveals widespread warming over the Himalayan-Gangetic region and consequent strengthening of the land-sea thermal gradient. This trend is most pronounced in the pre-monsoon season, resulting in a warming of 2.7 C in the 29-year record (1979–2007), when this region is strongly influenced by dust aerosols at elevated altitudes. The enhanced tropospheric warming is accompanied by increased atmospheric loading of absorbing aerosols, particularly vertically extended dust aerosols, raising the possibility that aerosol solar heating has amplified the seasonal warming and in turn strengthened the land-sea gradient.


This article was originally published in Geophysical Research Letters, volume 36, in 2009. DOI:10.1029/2009GL037641

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