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Volume 14, issue 20
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 11287-11295, 2014
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-14-11287-2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 11287-11295, 2014
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-14-11287-2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 27 Oct 2014

Research article | 27 Oct 2014

An important mechanism sustaining the atmospheric "water tower" over the Tibetan Plateau

X. Xu1, T. Zhao2, C. Lu3, Y. Guo1, B. Chen1, R. Liu4, Y. Li5, and X. Shi1 X. Xu et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Severe Weather, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, Beijing, 100081, China
  • 2Key Lab for Aerosol-Cloud-Precipitation of CMA, School of Atmospheric Physics, Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, Jiangsu, 210044, China
  • 3National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA 22230, USA
  • 4National Satellite Meteorological Center, China Meteorological Administration, Beijing, 100081, China
  • 5Institute of Plateau Meteorology, China Meteorological Administration, Chengdu, 610072, China

Abstract. The Tibetan Plateau (TP), referred to as the "roof of the world", is also known as the "world water tower" because it contains a large amount of water resources and ceaselessly transports these waters to its surrounding areas. However, it is not clear how these waters are being supplied and replenished. In particular, how plausible hydrological cycles can be realized between tropical oceans and the TP. In order to explore the mechanism sustaining the atmospheric "water tower" over the TP, the relationship of a "heat source column" over the plateau and moist flows in the Asian summer monsoon circulation is investigated. Here we show that the plateau's thermal structure leads to dynamic processes with an integration of two couplings of lower convergence zones and upper divergences, respectively, over the plateau's southern slopes and main platform, which relay moist air in two ladders up to the plateau. Similarly to the CISK (conditional instability of the second kind) mechanism of tropical cyclones, the elevated warm–moist air, in turn, forces convective weather systems, hence building a water cycle over the plateau. An integration of mechanical and thermal TP forcing is revealed in relation to the Asian summer monsoon circulation knitting a close tie of vapor transport from tropical oceans to the atmospheric "water tower" over the TP.

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The Tibetan Plateau (TP) with its thermal structure leads to dynamic processes of vapor transport, similar to the CISK mechanism of tropical cyclones. Two CISK-like processes, contiguous horizontally but staggered vertically, in two ladders over the southern slopes and main platform of the TP relay the moist air over the TP. An integration of mechanical and thermal TP forcing is revealed in relation to the Asian summer monsoon circulation transporting water vapor from tropical oceans to the TP.
The Tibetan Plateau (TP) with its thermal structure leads to dynamic processes of vapor...
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