Jessica Sieff | July 21, 2017
For nearly 1 billion people living on the subcontinent of India, monsoon rainfall provides water for agriculture, drinking water and hydroelectricity production. The torrential rainfall also can lead to deadly floods and landslides. Scientists have grappled with reliably predicting monsoons in advance, but progress has been slow mainly due to lack of measurements of the phenomena believed to be the building blocks of monsoon weather.
Researchers at the University of Notre Dame are at the forefront of a five-year study to measure oceanic and atmospheric conditions and flow patterns of monsoons across the Indian Ocean, in particular Bay of Bengal, to help improve predictive models.
“We want to understand fundamental processes that regulate monsoons. The active and break cycles of rainfall within a monsoon season, called monsoon intraseasonal oscillations (MISO), are difficult to predict and involve intricate air-sea dynamics,” said Harindra Joseph Fernando, Wayne and Diana Murdy Endowed Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at Notre Dame and principal investigator of the study. “Giant atmospheric wave patterns coming from the Indian Ocean impact countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Seychelles, and they circumnavigate and affect global weather — much like we see with the polar vortex. The focus of our research is to look at how these planetary-scale waves shape the regional weather and understand the conditions for extreme rainfall events.”