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Title: The Influence of Intraseasonal Oscillations on Humid Heat in the Persian Gulf and South Asia

Humans’ essential ability to combat heat stress through sweat-based evaporative cooling is modulated by ambient air temperature and humidity, making humid heat a critical factor for human health. In this study, we relate the occurrence of extreme humid heat in two focus regions to two related modes of intraseasonal climate variability: the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and the boreal summer intraseasonal oscillation (BSISO). In the Persian Gulf and South Asia during the May–June and July–August seasons, wet-bulb temperatures of 28°C are found to be almost twice as likely during certain oscillation phases than in others. Variations in moisture are found, to varying degrees, to be an important ingredient in anomalously high wet-bulb temperatures in all three areas studied, influenced by distinct local circulation anomalies. In the Persian Gulf, weakening of climatological winds associated with the intraseasonal oscillation’s propagating center of convection allows for anomalous onshore advection of humid air. Anomalously high wet-bulb temperatures in the northwestern region of South Asia are closely aligned with positive specific humidity anomalies associated with the convectively active phase of the oscillation. On the southeastern coast of India, high wet-bulb temperatures are associated with convectively inactive phases of the intraseasonal oscillation, suggesting that they may be driven by increased surface insolation and reduced evaporative cooling during monsoon breaks. Our results aid in building a foundation for subseasonal predictions of extreme humid heat in regions where it is highly impactful.

Significance Statement

Understanding when and why extreme humid heat occurs is essential for informing public health efforts protecting against heat stress. This analysis works to improve our understanding of humid heat variability in two at-risk regions, the Persian Gulf and South Asia. By exploring how subseasonal oscillations affect daily extreme events, this analysis helps bridge the prediction gap between weather and climate. We find that extreme humid heat is more than twice as likely during specific phases of these oscillations than in others. Extremes depend to different extents upon combinations of above-average temperature and humidity. This new knowledge of the regional drivers of humid heat variability is important to better prepare for the increasingly widespread health and socioeconomic impacts of heat stress.

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Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Climate
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 4309-4329
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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