Regional impact of an elevated heat source: The Zagros plateau of Iran.

Zaitchik, B.F., J.P. Evans and R.B. Smith
Journal of Climate, 20: 4133-4146, 2007.


The authors propose that a heat-driven circulation from the Zagros Plateau has a significant impact on the climate of the Middle East Plain (MEP), especially summertime winds, air temperature, and aridity. This proposal is examined in numerical experiments with a regional climate model. Simulations in which the Zagros Plateau was assigned a highly reflective, “snowlike” albedo neutralized the heat-driven circulation and produced an extra summertime warming of 1°–2°C in the MEP, measured relative to a control simulation and to the records of the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis project. This effect was largest in midsummer, when heating on the plateau was greatest. Additionally, simulations with high albedo on the Zagros showed reduced subsidence and enhanced precipitation in the MEP. These sensitivities are interesting because the Zagros Plateau lies downwind of the MEP. Analysis of model results indicates that the sensitivity of the upwind subsidence region to Zagros albedo can be understood as a linear atmospheric response to plateau heating, communicated upwind by a steady heat-driven circulation that influences the thermodynamic balance of the atmosphere. This regional phenomenon adds to the large-scale subsidence patterns established by the Hadley circulation and the Asian monsoon. Observed patterns of vertical motion in the Middle East, then, are a combined product of Zagros-induced subsidence and hemispheric-scale circulations.

Key Figure

compnents of thermodynamic balance

Figure 13: Ϫ1 Ϫ1(a) Pressure velocity (Pa s ) and components of the thermodynamic balance (°C h ) at 800 hPa, CTRL Ϫ MTSNOW, averaged for July 1999: (b) the diabatic heating rate, (c) the advective heating rate, and (d) the adiabatic heating rate associated with vertical motion. Hatches indicate areas where topography exceeds 800 hPa.

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