Geography Geography of Monsoons
Eungul Lee, Yaqian He, Jothiganesh Shanmugasundaram
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0175


Monsoons are a seasonally changing wind circulation system often associated with extreme events such as floods and droughts. These major wind systems, caused by a contrast in heat between land and ocean, are typically characterized by a seasonal reversal of wind direction and distribution of heavy rainfall, affecting the lives and property of people across the world from the tropics to those residing in the mid-latitudes. The fundamental dynamics of monsoons—ocean and atmosphere interactions, associated with the sea surface temperature (SST) and El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability—have been explored to explain the behavior of monsoon systems. Land and atmosphere interactions, associated with surface albedo and hydrology, are also important for understanding monsoon dynamics. The physical and dynamic processes of land, ocean, and atmosphere related to monsoons can vary over temporal scales of intraseasonal, interannual, and interdecadal variability. In addition to the temporal variability of monsoons, the geospatial variations of monsoons are important to understand the monsoon climates within the regional monsoon systems as well as among the regional monsoons across the globe. Previous monsoon studies have explored both physical and societal aspects of monsoon climates across the globe in Asia, Australia, Africa, and Americas over the various temporal scales from intraseasonal to paleoclimatic variability.


Ramage 1971, the first book on monsoon climate, would be useful for introducing monsoons to the classroom. Lighthill and Pearce 1981 and Chang and Krishnamurti 1987 describe the physical and dynamic processes of monsoons. Fein and Stephens 1987 helps with understanding the multifaceted aspects, including the socio-economic and historical, of the monsoon. Books covering regional monsoons are Chang 2004 for the East Asian monsoon, Ding 1994 for China, and Wang 2006 for Asian monsoons. A comprehensive review of the global monsoon systems is Chang, et al. 2005, which would be a good textbook for teaching the monsoon climate.

  • Chang, C. -P. The East Asian Monsoon. World Scientific Series on Meteorology of East Asia 2. Singapore: World Scientific, 2004.

    It covers the summer and winter monsoon systems in East Asia, affecting China, Korea, Japan, and the surrounding oceans, including interannual variations, monsoon modeling, synoptic processes, and interactions with other circulations.

  • Chang, C. -P., and T. N. Krishnamurti, eds. Monsoon Meteorology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

    The physical and dynamic processes of the Asian monsoons, including the Indian summer, East Asian summer and winter, and Australian summer monsoons.

  • Chang, C. -P., Bin Wang, and N. -C. G. Lau, eds. The Global Monsoon System: Research and Forecast. Geneva, Switzerland: World Meteorological Organization, 2005.

    This is a comprehensive review of the global monsoon systems over the tropical and subtropical Asia as well as other continents including Australia, Africa, South and North America, and western North Pacific. Recommended textbook for the teaching of monsoon climate in graduate level.

  • Ding, Y. Monsoons over China. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 1994.

    This monography provides the major aspects of one of the regional East Asian monsoon over China (Mei-yu), with a special emphasis on the temporal variability and the effects of the Tibetan Plateau on the monsoon.

  • Fein, J. S., and P. L. Stephens, eds. Monsoons. New York: Wiley, 1987.

    This book requires less particular technical background. It includes the multifaceted aspects, including cultural, societal, historical, and agricultural aspects of the Indian summer monsoon as well as the monsoon dynamics.

  • Lighthill, J., and R. P. Pearce, eds. Monsoon Dynamics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

    This book describes the physical and dynamic processes of the Asian monsoon, mostly the Indian summer monsoon, based on the observational and modeling studies. Both the ocean and atmosphere dynamics of monsoon are considered.

  • Ramage, C. S. Monsoon Meteorology. International Geophysics Series 15. New York: Academic Press, 1971.

    The first book of monsoon climate. It is constructed the synoptic monsoon systems across Asia, the western Pacific, and Africa. The first chapter of this book would be useful in introducing of the monsoon class.

  • Wang, B. Asian Monsoon, Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2006.

    This book can be used as a comprehensive text of the Asian monsoon systems for college students, both upper-level undergraduate and graduate and for research scientists and professionals.

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