Search Results

You are looking at 21 - 30 of 36 items for

  • Author or Editor: Matthew C. Wheeler x
  • Refine by Access: All Content x
Clear All Modify Search
Matthew C. Wheeler
,
Harry H. Hendon
,
Sam Cleland
,
Holger Meinke
, and
Alexis Donald

Abstract

Impacts of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) on Australian rainfall and circulation are examined during all four seasons. The authors examine circulation anomalies and a number of different rainfall metrics, each composited contemporaneously for eight MJO phases derived from the real-time multivariate MJO index. Multiple rainfall metrics are examined to allow for greater relevance of the information for applications. The greatest rainfall impact of the MJO occurs in northern Australia in (austral) summer, although in every season rainfall impacts of various magnitude are found in most locations, associated with corresponding circulation anomalies. In northern Australia in all seasons except winter, the rainfall impact is explained by the direct influence of the MJO’s tropical convective anomalies, while in winter a weaker and more localized signal in northern Australia appears to result from the modulation of the trade winds as they impinge upon the eastern coasts, especially in the northeast. In extratropical Australia, on the other hand, the occurrence of enhanced (suppressed) rainfall appears to result from induced upward (downward) motion within remotely forced extratropical lows (highs), and from anomalous low-level northerly (southerly) winds that transport moisture from the tropics. Induction of extratropical rainfall anomalies by remotely forced lows and highs appears to operate mostly in winter, whereas anomalous meridional moisture transport appears to operate mainly in the summer, autumn, and to some extent in the spring.

Full access
Harry H. Hendon
,
Kenneth R. Sperber
,
Duane E. Waliser
, and
Matthew C. Wheeler

No Abstract available.

Full access
Hanh Nguyen
,
Jason A. Otkin
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
,
Pandora Hope
,
Blair Trewin
, and
Christa Pudmenzky

Abstract

The seasonal cycle of the evaporative stress index (ESI) over Australia, and its relationship to observed rainfall and temperature, is examined. The ESI is defined as the standardized anomaly of the ratio of actual evapotranspiration to potential evapotranspiration, and as such, is a measure of vegetation moisture stress associated with agricultural or ecological drought. The ESI is computed using the daily output of version 6 of the Bureau of Meteorology’s landscape water balance model [Australian Water Resource Assessment Landscape (AWRA-L)] on a 5-km horizontal grid over a 45-yr period (1975–2019). Here we show that the ESI exhibits marked spatial and seasonal variability and can be used to accurately monitor drought across Australia, where ESI values less than negative one indicate drought. While the ESI is highly correlated with rainfall as expected, its relationship with temperature only becomes significant during the warmer seasons, suggesting a threshold above which temperature may affect vegetation stress. Our analysis also shows that the ESI tends to be strongly negative (i.e., indicating drought) during El Niño and positive phases of the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD), when conditions tend to be anomalously hot and dry. A negative phase of the southern annular mode also tends to drive negative ESI values during austral spring with a one-month delay.

Free access
Hanh Nguyen
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
,
Jason A. Otkin
,
Thong Nguyen-Huy
, and
Tim Cowan

Abstract

This study describes flash drought (FD) inferred from the evaporative stress index (ESI) over Australia and its relationship to vegetation. During 1975–2020, FD occurrence ranges from less than 1 per decade in the central arid regions to 10 per decade toward the coasts. Although FD can occur in any season, its occurrence is more frequent in summer in the north, winter in the southern interior and southwest, and across a range of months in the far southeast and Tasmania. With a view toward real-time monitoring, FD “declaration” is defined as the date when the ESI declines to at least −1, i.e., drought conditions, after at least 2 weeks of rapid decline. Composite analysis shows that evaporative demand begins to increase about 5–6 weeks before declaration with an increase in solar radiation, while evapotranspiration initially increases with evaporative demand but then decreases in response to the soil moisture depletion. Solar radiation increases simultaneously with precipitation deficit, both reaching their peak around declaration. FD intensity peaks with soil moisture depletion, 2–3 weeks after declaration. The composite wind speed only shows a modest increase around declaration. The composite FD ends 4 weeks after rapid decreases in solar radiation and increases in precipitation. Satellite-derived vegetation health composites show pronounced decline in the nonforested regions, peaking about 4–8 weeks after FD declaration, followed by a recovery period lasting about 12 weeks after flash drought ends. The forest-dominated regions, however, are little impacted. Modeled pasture growth data show reduced values for up to 3 months after the declaration month covering the main agricultural areas of Australia.

Significance Statement

Flash drought describes a fast intensification or rapid development of drought conditions with potential severe impacts on agriculture and ecosystems. This study describes the climatology and typical evolution of flash drought over Australia for the period 1975–2020. An objective definition of flash drought, using high-resolution observational-based datasets, is proposed and its spatiotemporal variability is provided, as well as its relationship with vegetation health and pasture growth. This constitutes a guideline for understanding flash drought in Australia and its impacts on vegetation.

Restricted access
Tim Cowan
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
,
S. Sharmila
,
Sugata Narsey
, and
Catherine de Burgh-Day

Abstract

Rainfall bursts are relatively short-lived events that typically occur over consecutive days, up to a week. Northern Australian industries like sugar farming and beef are highly sensitive to burst activity, yet little is known about the multiweek prediction of bursts. This study evaluates summer (December–March) bursts over northern Australia in observations and multiweek hindcasts from the Bureau of Meteorology’s multiweek to seasonal system, the Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator, Seasonal version 1 (ACCESS-S1). The main objective is to test ACCESS-S1’s skill to confidently predict tropical burst activity, defined as rainfall accumulation exceeding a threshold amount over three days, for the purpose of producing a practical, user-friendly burst forecast product. The ensemble hindcasts, made up of 11 members for the period 1990–2012, display good predictive skill out to lead week 2 in the far northern regions, despite overestimating the total number of summer burst days and the proportion of total summer rainfall from bursts. Coinciding with a predicted strong Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), the skill in burst event prediction can be extended out to four weeks over the far northern coast in December; however, this improvement is not apparent in other months or over the far northeast, which shows generally better forecast skill with a predicted weak MJO. The ability of ACCESS-S1 to skillfully forecast bursts out to 2–3 weeks suggests the bureau’s recent prototype development of a burst potential forecast product would be of great interest to northern Australia’s livestock and crop producers, who rely on accurate multiweek rainfall forecasts for managing business decisions.

Open access
Ewan Short
,
Todd P. Lane
,
Craig H. Bishop
, and
Matthew C. Wheeler

Abstract

Diurnal processes play a primary role in tropical weather. A leading hypothesis is that atmospheric gravity waves diurnally forced near coastlines propagate both offshore and inland, encouraging convection as they do so. In this study we extend the linear analytic theory of diurnally forced gravity waves, allowing for discontinuities in stability and for linear changes in stability over a finite-depth “transition layer.” As an illustrative example, we first consider the response to a commonly studied heating function emulating diurnally oscillating coastal temperature gradients, with a low-level stability change between the boundary layer and troposphere. Gravity wave rays resembling the upper branches of “Saint Andrew’s cross” are forced along the coastline at the surface, with the stability changes inducing reflection, refraction, and ducting of the individual waves comprising the rays, with analogous behavior evident in the rays themselves. Refraction occurs smoothly in the transition-layer solution, with substantially less reflection than in the discontinuous solution. Second, we consider a new heating function which emulates an upper-level convective heating diurnal cycle, and consider stability changes associated with the tropical tropopause. Reflection, refraction, and ducting again occur, with the lower branches of Saint Andrew’s cross now evident. We compare these solutions to observations taken during the Years of the Maritime Continent field campaign, noting better qualitative agreement with the transition-layer solution than the discontinuous solution, suggesting the tropopause is an even weaker gravity wave reflector than previously thought.

Significance Statement

This study extends our theoretical understanding of how forced atmospheric gravity waves change with atmospheric structure. Gravity wave behavior depends on atmospheric stability: how much the atmosphere resists vertical displacements of air. Where stability changes, waves reflect and refract, analogously to when light passes from water to air. Our study presents new mathematical tools for understanding this reflection and refraction, demonstrating reflection is substantially weaker when stability increases over “transition layers,” than when stability increases suddenly. Our results suggest the tropical tropopause reflects less gravity wave energy than previously thought, with potential design implications for weather and climate models, to be assessed in future work.

Restricted access
Xianan Jiang
,
Duane E. Waliser
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
,
Charles Jones
,
Myong-In Lee
, and
Siegfried D. Schubert

Abstract

Motivated by an attempt to augment dynamical models in predicting the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), and to provide a realistic benchmark to those models, the predictive skill of a multivariate lag-regression statistical model has been comprehensively explored in the present study. The predictors of the benchmark model are the projection time series of the leading pair of EOFs of the combined fields of equatorially averaged outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) and zonal winds at 850 and 200 hPa, derived using the approach of Wheeler and Hendon. These multivariate EOFs serve as an effective filter for the MJO without the need for bandpass filtering, making the statistical forecast scheme feasible for the real-time use. Another advantage of this empirical approach lies in the consideration of the seasonal dependence of the regression parameters, making it applicable for forecasts all year-round. The forecast model exhibits useful extended-range skill for a real-time MJO forecast. Predictions with a correlation skill of greater than 0.3 (0.5) between predicted and observed unfiltered (EOF filtered) fields still can be detected over some regions at a lead time of 15 days, especially for boreal winter forecasts. This predictive skill is increased significantly when there are strong MJO signals at the initial forecast time. The analysis also shows that predictive skill for the upper-tropospheric winds is relatively higher than for the low-level winds and convection signals. Finally, the capability of this empirical model in predicting the MJO is further demonstrated by a case study of a real-time “hindcast” during the 2003/04 winter. Predictive skill demonstrated in this study provides an estimate of the predictability of the MJO and a benchmark for the dynamical extended-range models.

Full access
George N. Kiladis
,
Juliana Dias
,
Katherine H. Straub
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
,
Stefan N. Tulich
,
Kazuyoshi Kikuchi
,
Klaus M. Weickmann
, and
Michael J. Ventrice

Abstract

Two univariate indices of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) based on outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) are developed to track the convective component of the MJO while taking into account the seasonal cycle. These are compared with the all-season Real-time Multivariate MJO (RMM) index of Wheeler and Hendon derived from a multivariate EOF of circulation and OLR. The gross features of the OLR and circulation of composite MJOs are similar regardless of the index, although RMM is characterized by stronger circulation. Diversity in the amplitude and phase of individual MJO events between the indices is much more evident; this is demonstrated using examples from the Dynamics of the Madden–Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) field campaign and the Year of Tropical Convection (YOTC) virtual campaign. The use of different indices can lead to quite disparate conclusions concerning MJO timing and strength, and even as to whether or not an MJO has occurred. A disadvantage of using daily OLR as an EOF basis is that it is a much noisier field than the large-scale circulation, and filtering is necessary to obtain stable results through the annual cycle. While a drawback of filtering is that it cannot be done in real time, a reasonable approximation to the original fully filtered index can be obtained by following an endpoint smoothing method. When the convective signal is of primary interest, the authors advocate the use of satellite-based metrics for retrospective analysis of the MJO for individual cases, as well as for the analysis of model skill in initiating and evolving the MJO.

Full access
Michael J. Ventrice
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
,
Harry H. Hendon
,
Carl J. Schreck III
,
Chris D. Thorncroft
, and
George N. Kiladis

Abstract

A new Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) index is developed from a combined empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis of meridionally averaged 200-hPa velocity potential (VP200), 200-hPa zonal wind (U200), and 850-hPa zonal wind (U850). Like the Wheeler–Hendon Real-time Multivariate MJO (RMM) index, which was developed in the same way except using outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) data instead of VP200, daily data are projected onto the leading pair of EOFs to produce the two-component index. This new index is called the velocity potential MJO (VPM) indices and its properties are quantitatively compared to RMM. Compared to the RMM index, the VPM index detects larger-amplitude MJO-associated signals during boreal summer. This includes a slightly stronger and more coherent modulation of Atlantic tropical cyclones. This result is attributed to the fact that velocity potential preferentially emphasizes the planetary-scale aspects of the divergent circulation, thereby spreading the convectively driven component of the MJO’s signal across the entire globe. VP200 thus deemphasizes the convective signal of the MJO over the Indian Ocean warm pool, where the OLR variability associated with the MJO is concentrated, and enhances the signal over the relatively drier longitudes of the equatorial Pacific and Atlantic. This work provides a useful framework for systematic analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of different MJO indices.

Full access
Savin S. Chand
,
Kevin J. Tory
,
John L. McBride
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
,
Richard A. Dare
, and
Kevin J. E. Walsh

Abstract

The number of tropical cyclones (TCs) in the Australian region exhibits a large variation between different ENSO regimes. While the difference in TC numbers and spatial distribution of genesis locations between the canonical El Niño and La Niña regimes is well known, the authors demonstrate that a statistically significant difference in TC numbers also exists between the recently identified negative-neutral and positive-neutral regimes. Compared to the negative-neutral and La Niña regimes, significantly fewer TCs form in the Australian region during the positive-neutral regime, particularly in the eastern subregion. This difference is attributed to concomitant changes in various large-scale environmental conditions such as sea level pressure, relative vorticity, vertical motion, and sea surface temperature.

Full access