Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-820
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-820
04 Apr 2024
 | 04 Apr 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Weather and Climate Dynamics (WCD).

Western disturbances and climate variability: a review of recent developments

Kieran M. R. Hunt, Jean-Philippe Baudouin, Andrew G. Turner, A. P. Dimri, Ghulam Jeelani, Pooja, Rajib Chattopadhyay, Forest Cannon, T. Arulalan, M. S. Shekhar, T. P. Sabin, and Eliza Palazzi

Abstract. Western disturbances (WDs) are synoptic-scale weather systems embedded within the subtropical westerly jet. Manifesting as upper-level troughs often associated with a lower-tropospheric low over Western India, they share some dynamical features with extratropical cyclones. WDs are most common during the boreal winter (December to March), during which they bring the majority of precipitation – both rain and snow – to the Western Himalaya, as well as to surrounding areas of north India, Pakistan and the Tibetan Plateau. WDs are also associated with weather hazards such as heavy snowfall, hailstorms, fog, cloudbursts, avalanches, frost, and coldwaves.

In this paper, we review the recent understanding and development on WDs. Recent studies have collectively made use of novel data, novel analysis techniques, and the increasing availability of high-resolution weather and climate models. This review is separated into six main sections – structure and thermodynamics, precipitation and impacts, teleconnections, modelling experiments, forecasting at a range of scales, and paleoclimate and climate change – each motivated with a brief discussion of the accomplishments and limitations of previous research.

A number of step changes in understanding are synthesised. Use of new modelling frameworks and tracking algorithms has significantly improved knowledge of WD structure and variability, and a more frequentist approach can now be taken. Improved observation systems have helped quantification of water security over the Western Himalaya. Convection-permitting models have improved our understanding of how WDs interact with the Himalayas to trigger natural hazards. Improvements in paleoclimate and future climate modelling experiments have helped to explain how WDs and their impacts over the Himalaya respond to large-scale natural and anthropogenic forcings. We end by summarising unresolved questions and outlining key future WD research topics.

Publisher's note: Copernicus Publications remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims made in the text, published maps, institutional affiliations, or any other geographical representation in this preprint. The responsibility to include appropriate place names lies with the authors.
Kieran M. R. Hunt, Jean-Philippe Baudouin, Andrew G. Turner, A. P. Dimri, Ghulam Jeelani, Pooja, Rajib Chattopadhyay, Forest Cannon, T. Arulalan, M. S. Shekhar, T. P. Sabin, and Eliza Palazzi

Status: open (until 23 Jun 2024)

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Kieran M. R. Hunt, Jean-Philippe Baudouin, Andrew G. Turner, A. P. Dimri, Ghulam Jeelani, Pooja, Rajib Chattopadhyay, Forest Cannon, T. Arulalan, M. S. Shekhar, T. P. Sabin, and Eliza Palazzi

Data sets

Tracks of western disturbances (1950-2022) impacting South Asia Kieran M. R. Hunt https://zenodo.org/records/8208019

Kieran M. R. Hunt, Jean-Philippe Baudouin, Andrew G. Turner, A. P. Dimri, Ghulam Jeelani, Pooja, Rajib Chattopadhyay, Forest Cannon, T. Arulalan, M. S. Shekhar, T. P. Sabin, and Eliza Palazzi

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Short summary
Western disturbances (WDs) are storms that predominantly affect north India and Pakistan during the winter months, where they play an important role in regional water security, but can also bring a range of natural hazards. In this review, we summarise recent literature across a range of topics: their structure and lifecycle, precipitation and impacts, interactions with large-scale weather patterns, representation in models, how well they are forecast, and their response to changes in climate.