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Xiao-Wei Quan
,
Martin P. Hoerling
,
Bradfield Lyon
,
Arun Kumar
,
Michael A. Bell
,
Michael K. Tippett
, and
Hui Wang

Abstract

The prospects for U.S. seasonal drought prediction are assessed by diagnosing simulation and hindcast skill of drought indicators during 1982–2008. The 6-month standardized precipitation index is used as the primary drought indicator. The skill of unconditioned, persistence forecasts serves as the baseline against which the performance of dynamical methods is evaluated. Predictions conditioned on the state of global sea surface temperatures (SST) are assessed using atmospheric climate simulations conducted in which observed SSTs are specified. Predictions conditioned on the initial states of atmosphere, land surfaces, and oceans are next analyzed using coupled climate-model experiments. The persistence of the drought indicator yields considerable seasonal skill, with a region’s annual cycle of precipitation driving a strong seasonality in baseline skill. The unconditioned forecast skill for drought is greatest during a region’s climatological dry season and is least during a wet season. Dynamical models forced by observed global SSTs yield increased skill relative to this baseline, with improvements realized during the cold season over regions where precipitation is sensitive to El Niño–Southern Oscillation. Fully coupled initialized model hindcasts yield little additional skill relative to the uninitialized SST-forced simulations. In particular, neither of these dynamical seasonal forecasts materially increases summer skill for the drought indicator over the Great Plains, a consequence of small SST sensitivity of that region’s summer rainfall and the small impact of antecedent soil moisture conditions, on average, upon the summer rainfall. The fully initialized predictions for monthly forecasts appreciably improve on the seasonal skill, however, especially during winter and spring over the northern Great Plains.

Full access
Bradfield Lyon
,
Michael A. Bell
,
Michael K. Tippett
,
Arun Kumar
,
Martin P. Hoerling
,
Xiao-Wei Quan
, and
Hui Wang

Abstract

The inherent persistence characteristics of various drought indicators are quantified to extract predictive information that can improve drought early warning. Predictive skill is evaluated as a function of the seasonal cycle for regions within North America. The study serves to establish a set of baseline probabilities for drought across multiple indicators amenable to direct comparison with drought indicator forecast probabilities obtained when incorporating dynamical climate model forecasts. The emphasis is on the standardized precipitation index (SPI), but the method can easily be applied to any other meteorological drought indicator, and some additional examples are provided. Monte Carlo resampling of observational data generates two sets of synthetic time series of monthly precipitation that include, and exclude, the annual cycle while removing serial correlation. For the case of no seasonality, the autocorrelation (AC) of the SPI (and seasonal precipitation percentiles, moving monthly averages of precipitation) decays linearly with increasing lag. It is shown that seasonality in the variance of accumulated precipitation serves to enhance or diminish the persistence characteristics (AC) of the SPI and related drought indicators, and the seasonal cycle can thereby provide an appreciable source of drought predictability at regional scales. The AC is used to obtain a parametric probability density function of the future state of the SPI that is based solely on its inherent persistence characteristics. In addition, a method is presented for determining the optimal persistence of the SPI for the case of no serial correlation in precipitation (again, the baseline case). The optimized, baseline probabilities are being incorporated into Internet-based tools for the display of current and forecast drought conditions in near–real time.

Full access
Andrew W. Robertson
,
Jing Yuan
,
Michael K. Tippett
,
Rémi Cousin
,
Kyle Hall
,
Nachiketa Acharya
,
Bohar Singh
,
Ángel G. Muñoz
,
Dan Collins
,
Emerson LaJoie
, and
Johnna Infanti

Abstract

A global multimodel probabilistic subseasonal forecast system for precipitation and near-surface temperature is developed based on three NOAA ensemble prediction systems that make their forecasts available publicly in real time as part of the Subseasonal Experiment (SubX). The weekly and biweekly ensemble means of precipitation and temperature of each model are individually calibrated at each grid point using extended logistic regression, prior to forming equal-weighted multimodel ensemble (MME) probabilistic forecasts. Reforecast skill of week-3–4 precipitation and temperature is assessed in terms of the cross-validated ranked probability skill score (RPSS) and reliability diagram. The multimodel reforecasts are shown to be well calibrated for both variables. Precipitation is moderately skillful over many tropical land regions, including Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, and over subtropical South America, Africa, and Australia. Near-surface temperature skill is considerably higher than for precipitation and extends into the extratropics as well. The multimodel RPSS skill of both precipitation and temperature is shown to exceed that of any of the constituent models over Indonesia, South Asia, South America, and East Africa in all seasons. An example real-time week-3–4 global forecast for 13–26 November 2021 is illustrated and shown to bear the hallmarks of the combined influences of a moderate Madden–Julian oscillation event as well as weak–moderate ongoing La Niña event.

Significance Statement

This paper develops a system for forecasting of precipitation and temperatures globally over land, several weeks in advance, with a focus on biweekly averaged conditions between three and four weeks ahead. The system provides the likelihood of biweekly and weekly conditions being below, near, or above their long-term averages, as well the probability of exceeding (or not exceeding) any threshold value. Using historical data, the precipitation forecasts are demonstrated to have skill in many tropical regions, and the temperature forecasts are more widely skillful. While weather and seasonal range forecasts have become quite generally available, this is one of the first examples of a publicly available, calibrated multimodel probabilistic real-time forecasting system for the subseasonal range.

Open access
Jorge L. García-Franco
,
Chia-Ying Lee
,
Suzana J. Camargo
,
Michael K. Tippett
,
Daehyun Kim
,
Andrea Molod
, and
Young-Kwon Lim

Abstract

This study evaluates the representation of tropical cyclone precipitation (TCP) in reforecasts from the Subseasonal to Seasonal (S2S) Prediction Project. The global distribution of precipitation in S2S models shows relevant biases in the multimodel mean ensemble that are characterized by wet biases in total precipitation and TCP, except for the Atlantic. The TCP biases can contribute more than 50% of the total precipitation biases in basins such as the southern Indian Ocean and South Pacific. The magnitude and spatial pattern of these biases exhibit little variation with lead time. The origins of TCP biases can be attributed to biases in the frequency of tropical cyclone occurrence. The S2S models simulate too few TCs in the Atlantic and western North Pacific and too many TCs in the Southern Hemisphere and eastern North Pacific. At the storm scale, the average peak precipitation near the storm center is lower in the models than observations due to a too high proportion of weak TCs. However, this bias is offset in some models by higher than observed precipitation rates at larger radii (300–500 km). An analysis of the mean TCP for each TC at each grid point reveals an overestimation of TCP rates, particularly in the near-equatorial Indian and western Pacific Oceans. These findings suggest that the simulation of TC occurrence and the storm-scale precipitation require better representation in order to reduce TCP biases and enhance the subseasonal prediction skill of mean and extreme total precipitation.

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John G. Dwyer
,
Suzana J. Camargo
,
Adam H. Sobel
,
Michela Biasutti
,
Kerry A. Emanuel
,
Gabriel A. Vecchi
,
Ming Zhao
, and
Michael K. Tippett

Abstract

This study investigates projected changes in the length of the tropical cyclone season due to greenhouse gas increases. Two sets of simulations are analyzed, both of which capture the relevant features of the observed annual cycle of tropical cyclones in the recent historical record. Both sets use output from the general circulation models (GCMs) of either phase 3 or phase 5 of the CMIP suite (CMIP3 and CMIP5, respectively). In one set, downscaling is performed by randomly seeding incipient vortices into the large-scale atmospheric conditions simulated by each GCM and simulating the vortices’ evolution in an axisymmetric dynamical tropical cyclone model; in the other set, the GCMs’ sea surface temperature (SST) is used as the boundary condition for a high-resolution global atmospheric model (HiRAM). The downscaling model projects a longer season (in the late twenty-first century compared to the twentieth century) in most basins when using CMIP5 data but a slightly shorter season using CMIP3. HiRAM with either CMIP3 or CMIP5 SST anomalies projects a shorter tropical cyclone season in most basins. Season length is measured by the number of consecutive days that the mean cyclone count is greater than a fixed threshold, but other metrics give consistent results. The projected season length changes are also consistent with the large-scale changes, as measured by a genesis index of tropical cyclones. The season length changes are mostly explained by an idealized year-round multiplicative change in tropical cyclone frequency, but additional changes in the transition months also contribute.

Full access
John T. Allen
,
Michael K. Tippett
,
Yasir Kaheil
,
Adam H. Sobel
,
Chiara Lepore
,
Shangyao Nong
, and
Andreas Muehlbauer

Abstract

The spatial distribution of return intervals for U.S. hail size is explored within the framework of extreme value theory using observations from the period 1979–2013. The center of the continent has experienced hail in excess of 5 in. (127 mm) during the past 30 yr, whereas hail in excess of 1 in. (25 mm) is more common in other regions, including the West Coast. Observed hail sizes show heavy quantization toward fixed-diameter reference objects and are influenced by spatial and temporal biases similar to those noted for hail occurrence. Recorded hail diameters have been growing in recent decades because of improved reporting. These data limitations motivate exploration of extreme value distributions to represent the return periods for various hail diameters. The parameters of a Gumbel distribution are fit to dithered observed annual maxima on a national 1° × 1° grid at locations with sufficient records. Gridded and kernel-smoothed return sizes and quantiles up to the 200-yr return period are determined for the fitted Gumbel distribution. These results are used to illustrate return levels for hail greater than a given size for at least one location within each 1° × 1° grid box for the United States.

Open access
Chia-Ying Lee
,
Suzana J. Camargo
,
Fréderic Vitart
,
Adam H. Sobel
,
Joanne Camp
,
Shuguang Wang
,
Michael K. Tippett
, and
Qidong Yang

Abstract

Probabilistic tropical cyclone (TC) occurrence, at lead times of week 1–4, in the Subseasonal to Seasonal (S2S) dataset are examined here. Forecasts are defined over 15° in latitude × 20° in longitude regions, and the prediction skill is measured using the Brier skill score with reference to climatological reference forecasts. Two types of reference forecasts are used: a seasonally constant one and a seasonally varying one, with the latter used for forecasts of anomalies from the seasonal climatology. Models from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and Météo-France/Centre National de Recherche Météorologiques have skill in predicting TC occurrence four weeks in advance. In contrast, only the ECMWF model is skillful in predicting the anomaly of TC occurrence beyond one week. Errors in genesis prediction largely limit models’ skill in predicting TC occurrence. Three calibration techniques, removing the mean genesis and occurrence forecast biases, and a linear regression method, are explored here. The linear regression method performs the best and guarantees a higher skill score when applied to the in-sample dataset. However, when applied to the out-of-sample data, especially in areas where the TC sample size is small, it may reduce the models’ prediction skill. Generally speaking, the S2S models are more skillful in predicting TC occurrence during favorable Madden–Julian oscillation phases. Last, we also report accumulated cyclone energy predictions skill using the ranked probability skill score.

Open access
Michelle L. L’Heureux
,
Daniel S. Harnos
,
Emily Becker
,
Brian Brettschneider
,
Mingyue Chen
,
Nathaniel C. Johnson
,
Arun Kumar
, and
Michael K. Tippett

Abstract

Did the strong 2023–24 El Niño live up to the hype? While climate prediction is inherently probabilistic, many users compare El Niño events against a deterministic map of expected impacts (e.g., wetter or drier regions). Here, using this event as a guide, we show that no El Niño perfectly matches the ideal image and that observed anomalies will only partially match what was anticipated. In fact, the degree to which the climate anomalies match the expected ENSO impacts tends to scale with the strength of the event. The 2023–24 event generally matched well with ENSO expectations around the United States. However, this will not always be the case, as the analysis shows larger deviations from the historical ENSO pattern of impacts are commonplace, with some climate variables more prone to inconsistencies (e.g., temperature) than others (e.g., precipitation). Users should incorporate this inherent uncertainty in their risk and decision-making analysis.

Open access
Michelle L. L’Heureux
,
Michael K. Tippett
,
Ken Takahashi
,
Anthony G. Barnston
,
Emily J. Becker
,
Gerald D. Bell
,
Tom E. Di Liberto
,
Jon Gottschalck
,
Michael S. Halpert
,
Zeng-Zhen Hu
,
Nathaniel C. Johnson
,
Yan Xue
, and
Wanqiu Wang

Abstract

Three strategies for creating probabilistic forecast outlooks for El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are compared. One is subjective and is currently used by the NOAA/Climate Prediction Center (CPC) to produce official ENSO outlooks. A second is purely objective and is based on the North American Multimodel Ensemble (NMME). A new third strategy is proposed in which the forecaster only provides the expected value of the Niño-3.4 index, and then categorical probabilities are objectively determined based on past skill. The new strategy results in more confident probabilities compared to the subjective approach and higher verification scores, while avoiding the significant forecast busts that sometimes afflict the NMME-based objective approach. The higher verification scores of the new strategy appear to result from the added value that forecasters provide in predicting the mean, combined with more reliable representations of uncertainty, which is difficult to represent because forecasters often assume less confidence than is justified. Moreover, the new approach can produce higher-resolution probabilistic forecasts that include ENSO strength information and that are difficult, if not impossible, for forecasters to produce. To illustrate, a nine-category ENSO outlook based on the new strategy is assessed and found to be skillful. The new approach can be applied to other outlooks where users desire higher-resolution probabilistic forecasts, including the extremes.

Full access
Michelle L. L’Heureux
,
Michael K. Tippett
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
,
Hanh Nguyen
,
Sugata Narsey
,
Nathaniel Johnson
,
Zeng-Zhen Hu
,
Andrew B. Watkins
,
Chris Lucas
,
Catherine Ganter
,
Emily Becker
,
Wanqiu Wang
, and
Tom Di Liberto

Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is often characterized through the use of sea surface temperature (SST) departures from their climatological values, as in the Niño-3.4 index. However, this approach is problematic in a changing climate when the climatology itself is varying. To address this issue, van Oldenborgh et al. proposed a relative Niño-3.4 SST index, which subtracts the tropical mean SST anomaly from the Niño-3.4 index and multiplies by a scaling factor. We extend their work by providing a simplified calculation procedure for the scaling factor, and confirm that the relative index demonstrates reduced sensitivity to climate change and multidecadal variability. In particular, we show in three observational SST datasets that the relative index provides a more consistent classification of historical El Niño and La Niña oceanic conditions that is more robust across climatological periods compared to the nonrelative index. Forecast skill of the relative Niño-3.4 index in the North American Multimodel Ensemble (NMME) and ACCESS-S2 is slightly reduced for targets during the first half of the year because subtracting the tropical mean removes a source of additional skill. For targets in the second half of the year, the relative and nonrelative indices are equally skillful. Observed ENSO teleconnections in 200-hPa geopotential height and precipitation during key seasons are sharper and explain more variability over Australia and the contiguous United States when computed with the relative index. Overall, the relative Niño-3.4 index provides a more robust option for real-time monitoring and forecasting ENSO in a changing climate.

Significance Statement

The goal of this study is to further explore a relative sea surface temperature index for monitoring and prediction of El Niño–Southern Oscillation. Sea surface temperature indices are typically computed as a difference from a 30-yr climatological average, and El Niño and La Niña events occur when values exceed a certain threshold. This method is suitable when the climate is stationary. However, because of climate change and other lower-frequency variations, historical El Niño and La Niña events are reclassified depending on which climatological period is selected. A relative index is investigated to ameliorate this problem.

Restricted access