The noise of several alarms -- including one that indicated the plane was stalling -- can be heard going off in recordings from the black box in the Airbus A320-200's cockpit, the investigator said, requesting anonymity.
"The warning alarms, we can say, were screaming, while in the background they (the pilot and co-pilot) were busy trying to recover," the investigator said, adding the warnings were going off "for some time".
The investigator, from Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC), added that the pilots' voices were drowned out by the sound of the alarms.
The revelation came a day after Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said that the plane had climbed abnormally fast before stalling and plunging into the sea, as it flew on December 28 in stormy weather from Indonesia's Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people on board.
"In the final minutes, the plane climbed at a speed which was beyond normal," the minister told reporters.
Analysts said the AirAsia jet's rapid ascent had echoes of the crash of an Air France jet into the Atlantic in 2009, with the loss of 228 lives.
Air France flight 447 vanished en route from Rio to Paris at night during a storm. The Airbus A330's speed sensors were found to have malfunctioned, and the plane climbed too steeply, causing it to stall.
The investigation into AF447 found that both technical and human error were to blame.
As with the AirAsia disaster, the accident happened in an area around the equator where north and south winds meet, and thunderstorms are common.
"The similarities are pretty striking," Daniel Tsang, founder of Hong Kong-based consultancy Aspire Aviation, said.

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