Seasonal variation of precipitation in mainland southeast Asia (SEA) is dominated by the Indian summer monsoon system and the western Pacific winter monsoon system, while the interannual variability of precipitation in this region can be related to remote
variability, such as variations in sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events. Here we use a version of the Community Earth System Model (CESM1.2) with water tagging capability, to examine the impact of ENSO on precipitation in mainland Southeast Asia during the onset of the Indian summer monsoon. In the model, water is tagged as it is evaporated from geographically defined regions and tracked through phase changes in the atmosphere until it is precipitated. The model simulates well the seasonal variability in SEA precipitation as captured by multiple observational data sets, and the variations in precipitation during the monsoon onset is well correlated with the Oceanic Niño Index. We examine the changes in the large-scale atmospheric circulation associated with El Niño and La Niña conditions, and the implication of these changes for moisture transport to SEA. In particular, we quantify the relative ENSO-induced changes in the local and Pacific and Indian Ocean moisture sources for SEA precipitation. We also assess the changes in the moisture source regions over the seasonal cycle to obtain an understanding of the variability in the moisture sources for SEA precipitation from seasonal to interannual time scales.