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Monsoon Melee

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Science  21 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6139, pp. 1400-1401
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6139.1400

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Summary

The textbook explanation for the Indian monsoon holds that warm air above the Tibetan plateau causes the annual deluge. Under the theory, first proposed in the 1950s, the difference in atmospheric temperatures between air over the plateau and over the Indian Ocean creates winds that suck moist air from the sea into the Indian subcontinent, causing rain. But some researchers now contend that heating of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, rather than Tibet, drives the monsoon, with the Himalayas creating a barrier that blocks cold, dry winds from the north. Contributing to the controversy is the fact that modeling climate in mountainous regions is notoriously difficult. How the matter is resolved could affect how scientists predict the start date and duration of the monsoon, as well as how it will respond to climate change.

  • * Jane Qiu is a writer in Beijing.