A critical humidity threshold for monsoon transitions

J. Schewe, A. Levermann, H. Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Monsoon systems around the world are governed by the so-called moisture-advection feedback. Here we show that, in a minimal conceptual model, this feedback implies a critical threshold with respect to the atmospheric specific humidity q c o over the ocean adjacent to the monsoon region. If q c o falls short of this critical value q c oc, monsoon rainfall over land cannot be sustained. Such a case could occur if evaporation from the ocean was reduced, e.g. due to low sea surface temperatures. Within the restrictions of the conceptual model, we estimate q c oc from present-day reanalysis data for four major monsoon systems, and demonstrate how this concept can help understand abrupt variations in monsoon strength on orbital timescales as found in proxy records.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)535-544
Number of pages10
JournalClimate of the Past
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012


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