Deciphering Monsoons in a Time of Drastic Changes

October 21, 2014 10:43 PM

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As summer settles onto the landmass once ruled by Genghis Khan, a string of events across the globe begins. Temperatures increase, glaciers shrink, and the annual monsoon cycle commences. The annual creation and eventual melt of the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau birth the monsoon winds. In the summer the Tibetan Plateau heats quickly, drawing in the warm, moist ocean air, beginning the monsoon. In the winter the land of the plateau cools quickly, pushing cool air out into the warmer ocean air, ending the monsoon. Created by the convergence of two continental tectonic plates, the Tibetan Plateau is the highest and largest flat, open space on the globe. No other place on Earth is as large with such seasonal changes in temperature as is the Tibetan Plateau.

Nor does any place influence the global climate as much: The drastic temperature shifts influence most of the world's monsoons. Researchers have studied monsoons since the 16th century, when geographer Richard Hakluyt first coined the term in reference to the seasonal global shift in wind and rain p...

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