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Thomas Harvey
,
James A. Renwick
,
Andrew M. Lorrey
, and
Arona Ngari

Abstract

The South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ) is the largest rainfall feature in the Southern Hemisphere, and is a critical component of the climate for South Pacific island nations and territories. The small size and isolated nature of these islands leaves them vulnerable to short- and long-term changes in the position of the SPCZ. Its position and strength is strongly modulated by El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), leading to large interannual variability in rainfall across the southwest Pacific including seasonal droughts and pluvials. Currently much of the analysis about SPCZ activity has been restricted to the satellite observation period starting in 1979. Here, the representation of the SPCZ in the Twentieth Century Reanalysis (20CR), which is a three-dimensional atmospheric reconstruction based only on surface observations, is discussed for the period since 1908. The performance of two versions of the 20CR (version 2 and version 2c) in the satellite era is compared with other reanalyses and climate observation products. The 20CR performs well in the satellite era. Extra surface observations spanning the SPCZ region from the longitude of the Cook Islands has improved the representation of the SPCZ during 1908–57 between 20CRv2 and 20CRv2c. The well-established relationship with ENSO is observed in both the representation of mean SPCZ position and intensity, and this relationship remains consistent through the entire 1908–2011 period. This suggests that the ENSO–SPCZ relationship has remained similar over the course of the past century, and gives further evidence that 20CRv2c performs well back to 1908 over the southwest Pacific region.

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