Western Disturbances: A review
Cyclonic storms associated with the midlatitude Subtropical Westerly Jet (SWJ), referred to as Western Disturbances (WDs), play a critical role in the meteorology of the Indian subcontinent. WDs embedded in the southward propagating SWJ produce extreme precipitation over northern India and are further enhanced over the Himalayas due to orographic land-atmosphere interactions. During December, January, and February, WD snowfall is the dominant precipitation input to establish and sustain regional snowpack, replenishing regional water resources. Spring melt is the major source of runoff to northern Indian rivers and can be linked to important hydrologic processes from aquifer recharge to flashfloods. Understanding the dynamical structure, evolution-decay, and interaction of WDs with the Himalayas is therefore necessary to improve knowledge which has wide ranging socioeconomic implications beyond short-term disaster response including cold season agricultural activities, management of water resources, and development of vulnerability-adaptive measures. In addition, WD wintertime precipitation provides critical mass input to existing glaciers and modulates the albedo characteristics of the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau, affecting large-scale circulation and the onset of the succeeding Indian Summer Monsoon. Assessing the impacts of climate variability and change on the Indian subcontinent requires fundamental understanding of the dynamics of WDs. In particular, projected changes in the structure of the SWJ will influence evolution-decay processes of the WDs and impact Himalayan regional water availability. This review synthesizes past research on WDs with a perspective to provide a comprehensive assessment of the state of knowledge to assist both researchers and policymakers, and context for future research.
Dimri, AP; Niyogi, D; Barros, AP; Ridley, J; Mohanty, UC; Yasunari, T; Sikka, DR
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)