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Record-breaking heat wave in southern China and delayed onset of South China Sea summer monsoon driven by the Pacific subtropical high

Deng, Kaiqiang, Yang, Song, Gu, Dejun, Lin, Ailan, Li, Chunhui
Climate dynamics 2020 v.54 no.7-8 pp. 3751-3764
air, air temperature, climate, heat, moisture diffusivity, monsoon season, oceans, prediction, probability, rain, spring, summer, wind direction, China, South China Sea
We investigate a record-breaking heat wave in southern China (SC) and explore its association with the South China Sea (SCS) summer monsoon (SCSSM), using station observations and various reanalysis products. This heat wave event started in mid-May 2018 and persisted more than 15 days, when the maximum air temperature anomaly exceeded 6 °C. Meanwhile, the onset of the SCSSM was extremely late in 2018, primarily due to the intrusion of easterly winds over the SCS. We show that the anomalous easterlies over the SCS associated with the delayed SCSSM could block the moisture transport from the tropical oceans to SC, which led to decreased rainfall, increased surface radiation, and elevated probability of heat wave in SC during May 2018. Further analysis reveals that both SC heat waves and SCSSM were significantly affected by the Pacific subtropical high (PSH). The westward extension of the PSH can hinder the establishment of SCSSM via inducing easterly anomalies over the SCS, which reduces SC rainfall and results in a drier surface condition. Moreover, the westward displacement of the PSH may cause anomalously high pressures, descending air motions, and divergent winds over SC, which triggers above-normal air temperatures that are conducive to the occurrences of SC heat waves. This study also underlines the importance of Eurasian planetary wave trains in bridging the upstream climate variability and the changes in PSH during boreal spring, which could be used to improve the intra-seasonal predictions of SC heat wave and SCSSM onset.