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On the Feasibility of Tracking the Monsoon History by Using Ancient Wind Direction Records

AuthorsGallego, David; Ribera, Pedro; Peña-Ortiz, Cristina; Vega, Inmaculada; Paula Gómez, Francisco de; Ordóñez-Pérez, Paulina; García Herrera, Ricardo
KeywordsWest African Monsoon (WAM)
Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM)
Issue DateDec-2015
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
CitationAGU Fall Meeting 2015, PP23A‐2291
AbstractIn this work, we use old wind direction records to reconstruct indices for the West African Monsoon (WAM) and the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM). Since centuries ago, ships departing from the naval European powers circumnavigated Africa in their route to the Far East. Most of these ships took high-quality observations preserved in logbooks. We show that wind direction observations taken aboard ships can be used to track the seasonal wind reversal typical of monsoonal circulations. The persistence of the SW winds in the 20W-17W and 7N-13N region is highly correlated with the WAM strength and Sahel’s precipitation. It has been possible to build a WAM index back to the 19th Century. Our results show that in the Sahel, the second half of the 19thCentury was significantly wetter than present day. The relation of the WAM with the ENSO cycle, and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation was low and instable from the 1840s to the 1970s, when they abruptly suffered an unprecedented reinforcement which last up to the present day. The persistence of the SSW wind in the 60E-80E and 8N-12N area has been used to track the ISM onset since the 1880s. We found evidences of later than average onset dates during the 1900-1925 and 1970-1990 periods and earlier than average onset between 1940 and 1965. A significant relation between the ISM onset and the PDO restricted to shifts from negative to positive PDO phases has been found. The most significant contribution of our study is the fact that we have shown that it is possible to build consistent monsoon indices of instrumental character using solely direct observations of wind direction. Our indices have been generated by using data currently available in the ICOADS 2.5 database, but a large amount of wind observations for periods previous to the 20thcentury still remain not explored in thousands of logbooks preserved in British archives. The interest of unveil these data to track the monsoons for more than 200 -or even 300 years- it is difficult to exaggerate and will largely justify the time and economic costs of its digitation.
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