Study of past South Asian monsoons suggests stronger monsoon rainfall in the future

Source: Science Direct

A new study of monsoon rainfall on the Indian subcontinent over the past million years provides vital clues about how the monsoons will respond to future climate change.

The study, published in Science Advances, found that periodic changes in the intensity of monsoon rainfall over the past 900,000 years were associated with fluctuations in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), continental ice volume and moisture import from the southern hemisphere Indian Ocean. The findings bolster climate model predictions that rising CO2 and higher global temperatures will lead to stronger monsoon seasons.

"We show that over the last 900,000 years, higher CO2 levels along with associated changes in ice volume and moisture transport were associated with more intense monsoon rainfall," said Steven Clemens, a professor of geological sciences (research) at Brown University and lead author of the study. "That tells us that CO2 levels and associated warming were major players in monsoon intensity in the past, which supports what the models predict about future monsoons -- that rainfall will intensify with rising CO2 and warming global temperature."

The South Asian monsoon is arguably the single most powerful expression of Earth's hydroclimate, Clemens says, with some locations getting several meters of rain each summer. The rains are vital to the region's agriculture and economy, but can also cause flooding and crop disruption in years when they're particularly heavy. Because the monsoons play such a large role in the lives of nearly 1.4 billion people, understanding how climate change may affect them is critical.



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