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The Dynamics of the Global Monsoon: Connecting Theory and Observations
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  • Ruth Geen,
  • Simona Bordoni,
  • David S. Battisti,
  • Katrina L. Hui
Ruth Geen
University of Exeter, University of Exeter

Corresponding Author:rg419@exeter.ac.uk

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Simona Bordoni
University of Trento, University of Trento
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David S. Battisti
University of Washington, University of Washington
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Katrina L. Hui
California Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology
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Earth's monsoons are complex systems, governed by both large-scale constraints on the atmospheric general circulation and regional interactions with continents and orography, and coupled to the ocean. Monsoons have historically been considered as distinct regional systems, and the prevailing view has been, and remains, an intuitive picture of monsoons as a form of large-scale sea breeze, driven by land-sea contrast. However, climate dynamics is seldom intuitive. More recently, a perspective has emerged within the observational and Earth system modeling communities of a global monsoon that is the result of a seasonally migrating tropical convergence zone, intimately connected to the global tropical atmospheric overturning and localized by regional characteristics. Parallel with this, over the past decade, much theoretical progress has been made in understanding the fundamental dynamics of the seasonal Hadley cells and Intertropical Convergence Zones via the use of hierarchical modeling approaches, including highly idealized simulations such as aquaplanets. Here we review the theoretical progress made, and explore the extent to which these theoretical advances can help synthesize theory with observations and understand differing characteristics of regional monsoons. We show that this theoretical work provides strong support for the migrating convergence zone picture, allows constraints on the circulation to be identified via the momentum and energy budgets, and lays out a framework to assess variability and possible future changes to the monsoon. Limitations of current theories are discussed, including the need for a better understanding of the influence of zonal asymmetries and transients on the large-scale tropical circulation.
Dec 2020Published in Reviews of Geophysics volume 58 issue 4. 10.1029/2020RG000700