IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

South Asia

Most of the MMD-A1B models project a decrease in precipitation in DJF (the dry season), and an increase during the rest of the year. The median change is 11% by the end of the 21st century, and seasonally is –5% in DJF and 11% in JJA, with a large inter-model spread (Table 11.1). The probabilistic method of Tebaldi et al. (2004a) similarly shows a large spread, although only 3 of the 21 models project a decrease in annual precipitation. This qualitative agreement on increasing precipitation for most of the year is also supported by earlier AOGCM simulations (Lal and Harasawa, 2001; Lal et al., 2001; Rupa Kumar and Ashrit, 2001; Rupa Kumar et al., 2002, 2003; Ashrit et al., 2003; May, 2004b).

In a study with four GCMs, Douville et al. (2000) find a significant spread in the summer monsoon precipitation anomalies despite a general weakening of the monsoon circulation (see also May, 2004b). They conclude that the changes in atmospheric water content, precipitation and land surface hydrology under greenhouse forcing could be more important than the increase in the land-sea thermal gradient for the future evolution of monsoon precipitation. Stephenson et al. (2001) propose that the consequences of climate change could manifest in different ways in the physical and dynamical components of monsoon circulation. Douville et al. (2000) also argue that the weakening of the ENSO-monsoon correlation could be explained by a possible increase in precipitable water as a result of global warming, rather than by an increased land-sea thermal gradient. However, model diagnostics using ECHAM4 to investigate this aspect indicate that both the above mechanisms can play a role in monsoon changes in a greenhouse-gas warming scenario. Ashrit et al. (2001) show that the monsoon deficiency due to El Niño might not be as severe, while the favourable impact of La Niña seems to remain unchanged. In a later study using the Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques (CNRM) GCM, Ashrit et al. (2003) find that the simulated ENSO-monsoon teleconnection shows a strong modulation on multi-decadal time scales, but no systematic change with increasing amounts of greenhouse gases.

Time-slice experiments with ECHAM4 indicate a general increase in the intensity of heavy rainfall events in the future, with large increases over the Arabian Sea and the tropical Indian Ocean, in northern Pakistan and northwest India, as well as in northeast India, Bangladesh and Myanmar (May, 2004a). The HadRM2 RCM shows an overall decrease by up to 15 days in the annual number of rainy days over a large part of South Asia, under the IS92a scenario in the 2050s, but with an increase in the precipitation intensity as well as extreme precipitation (Krishna Kumar et al., 2003). Simulations with the PRECIS RCM also project substantial increases in extreme precipitation over a large area, particularly over the west coast of India and west central India (Rupa Kumar et al., 2006). Dairaku and Emori (2006) show from a high-resolution AGCM simulation (about 1.5 degrees) that the increased extreme precipitation over land in South Asia would arise mainly from dynamic effects, that is, enhanced upward motion due to the northward shift of monsoon circulation.

Based on regional HadRM2 simulations, Unnikrishnan et al. (2006) report increases in the frequency as well as intensities of tropical cyclones in the 2050s under the IS92a scenario in the Bay of Bengal, which will cause more heavy precipitation in the surrounding coastal regions of South Asia, during both southwest and northeast monsoon seasons.