A phenomenological paradigm for midtropospheric cyclogenesis in the Indian summer monsoon

Ayantika Dey Choudhury, R. Krishnan, M. V.S. Ramarao, R. Vellore, M. Singh, B. Mapes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Midtropospheric cyclones (MTCs) are a distinct class of synoptic disturbances, characterized by quasi-stationary cyclonic circulation in midtropospheric levels, which often produce heavy rainfall and floods over western India during the summer monsoon. This study presents a composite and diagnostic process study of long-lived (> 5 days) midtropospheric cyclonic circulation events identified by the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Reanalysis data confirm earlier studies in revealing that the MTC composite has its strongest circulation in the midtroposphere. Lagged composites show that these events co-occur with broader-scale monsoon evolution, including larger synoptic-scale low pressure systems over the Bay of Bengal (BoB) and east coast, and the active phase of regional-scale poleward-propagating intraseasonal rain belts, with associated drying ahead (north) of the convectively active area. Diabatic heating composites, in particular the TRMM latent heating and Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2)-derived radiative cooling in the dry inland areas of southwest Asia north of the rain belt, are used to drive a nonlinear multilayer dynamical model in a forced-damped reconstruction of the global circulation. Results show that the midlevel circulation is largely attributable to top-heavy latent heating, indicative of the prevalence of stratiform-type precipitation in mesoscale convective systems in these moist, active larger-scale settings. Both the west coast and BoB latent heating are important, while the radiative cooling over southwest Asia plays a modest role in sharpening some of the simulated features. A conceptual model encapsulates the paradigm based on this composite and diagnostic modeling, a diabatic update of early theoretical studies that emphasized hydrodynamic flow instabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2931-2954
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Dynamics
  • Heating
  • Intraseasonal variability
  • Monsoons
  • Precipitation
  • Stratiform clouds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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