Seasonal-to-Decadal Predictability and Prediction of North American Climate—The Atlantic Influence

H. M. Van den Dool Climate Prediction Center, Washington, D.C

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Peitao Peng Climate Prediction Center, Washington, D.C

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Åke Johansson Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, Norrköping, Sweden

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Muthuvel Chelliah Climate Prediction Center, Washington, D.C

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Amir Shabbar Meteorological Service of Canada, Downsview, Ontario, Canada

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Suranjana Saha Environmental Modeling Center, Washington, D.C

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Abstract

The question of the impact of the Atlantic on North American (NA) seasonal prediction skill and predictability is examined. Basic material is collected from the literature, a review of seasonal forecast procedures in Canada and the United States, and some fresh calculations using the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data.

The general impression is one of low predictability (due to the Atlantic) for seasonal mean surface temperature and precipitation over NA. Predictability may be slightly better in the Caribbean and the (sub)tropical Americas, even for precipitation. The NAO is widely seen as an agent making the Atlantic influence felt in NA. While the NAO is well established in most months, its prediction skill is limited. Year-round evidence for an equatorially displaced version of the NAO (named ED_NAO) carrying a good fraction of the variance is also found.

In general the predictability from the Pacific is thought to dominate over that from the Atlantic sector, which explains the minimal number of reported Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) runs that explore Atlantic-only impacts. Caveats are noted as to the question of the influence of a single predictor in a nonlinear environment with many predictors. Skill of a new one-tier global coupled atmosphere–ocean model system at NCEP is reviewed; limited skill is found in midlatitudes and there is modest predictability to look forward to.

There are several signs of enthusiasm in the community about using “trends” (low-frequency variations): (a) seasonal forecast tools include persistence of last 10 years’ averaged anomaly (relative to the official 30-yr climatology), (b) hurricane forecasts are based largely on recognizing a global multidecadal mode (which is similar to an Atlantic trend mode in SST), and (c) two recent papers, one empirical and one modeling, giving equal roles to the (North) Pacific and Atlantic in “explaining” variations in drought frequency over NA on a 20 yr or longer time scale during the twentieth century.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Huug Van den Dool, Climate Prediction Center/WWB/Rm. 604, 5200 Auth Road, Camp Springs, MD 20746. Email: huug.vandendool@noaa.gov

Abstract

The question of the impact of the Atlantic on North American (NA) seasonal prediction skill and predictability is examined. Basic material is collected from the literature, a review of seasonal forecast procedures in Canada and the United States, and some fresh calculations using the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data.

The general impression is one of low predictability (due to the Atlantic) for seasonal mean surface temperature and precipitation over NA. Predictability may be slightly better in the Caribbean and the (sub)tropical Americas, even for precipitation. The NAO is widely seen as an agent making the Atlantic influence felt in NA. While the NAO is well established in most months, its prediction skill is limited. Year-round evidence for an equatorially displaced version of the NAO (named ED_NAO) carrying a good fraction of the variance is also found.

In general the predictability from the Pacific is thought to dominate over that from the Atlantic sector, which explains the minimal number of reported Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) runs that explore Atlantic-only impacts. Caveats are noted as to the question of the influence of a single predictor in a nonlinear environment with many predictors. Skill of a new one-tier global coupled atmosphere–ocean model system at NCEP is reviewed; limited skill is found in midlatitudes and there is modest predictability to look forward to.

There are several signs of enthusiasm in the community about using “trends” (low-frequency variations): (a) seasonal forecast tools include persistence of last 10 years’ averaged anomaly (relative to the official 30-yr climatology), (b) hurricane forecasts are based largely on recognizing a global multidecadal mode (which is similar to an Atlantic trend mode in SST), and (c) two recent papers, one empirical and one modeling, giving equal roles to the (North) Pacific and Atlantic in “explaining” variations in drought frequency over NA on a 20 yr or longer time scale during the twentieth century.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Huug Van den Dool, Climate Prediction Center/WWB/Rm. 604, 5200 Auth Road, Camp Springs, MD 20746. Email: huug.vandendool@noaa.gov

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