Abstract

In this paper we introduce an objective definition for the onset and the retreat of the northern Australian rainy season that overlaps significantly with the Australian monsoon season. We define onset and retreat dates of the northern Australian rainy season as being the first and the last day of the year when the daily rain rate exceeds and falls below the climatological annual mean rain rate, respectively. However, our definition of onset/demise is not as restrictive as the traditional monsoon season that seeks the arrival of the westerlies and the equatorward retreat of the trough at its onset and demise, respectively. As defined in this paper, the length of the rainy season is longer than the monsoon season and includes the pre- and post-monsoon rainfall. It is noted that an early or later onset date of the northern Australian rainy season is associated with a longer or shorter, wetter or drier, and colder or warmer season, respectively. Similar relationship is also observed with demise date variations, which are, however, weaker than the onset date variations. Furthermore, we find that the relationship of the northern Australian seasonal rainfall variations with ENSO variability becomes stronger when we account for variations in the length of the rainy season compared to the fixed (December–February) monsoon season length. We also find a significant linear trend over the time period of the analysis from 1901 to 2015 toward an increasing length of the northern Australian rainy season that influences the corresponding rising trend of seasonal rainfall anomalies.

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