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Li Shi, Harry H. Hendon, Oscar Alves, Jing-Jia Luo, Magdalena Balmaseda, and David Anderson


In light of the growing recognition of the role of surface temperature variations in the Indian Ocean for driving global climate variability, the predictive skill of the sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies associated with the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) is assessed using ensemble seasonal forecasts from a selection of contemporary coupled climate models that are routinely used to make seasonal climate predictions. The authors assess predictions from successive versions of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Predictive Ocean–Atmosphere Model for Australia (POAMA 15b and 24), successive versions of the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFSv1 and CFSv2), the ECMWF seasonal forecast System 3 (ECSys3), and the Frontier Research Centre for Global Change system (SINTEX-F) using seasonal hindcasts initialized each month from January 1982 to December 2006.

The lead time for skillful prediction of SST in the western Indian Ocean is found to be about 5–6 months while in the eastern Indian Ocean it is only 3–4 months when all start months are considered. For the IOD events, which have maximum amplitude in the September–November (SON) season, skillful prediction is also limited to a lead time of about one season, although skillful prediction of large IOD events can be longer than this, perhaps up to about two seasons. However, the tendency for the models to overpredict the occurrence of large events limits the confidence of the predictions of these large events. Some common model errors, including a poor representation of the relationship between El Niño and the IOD, are identified indicating that the upper limit of predictive skill of the IOD has not been achieved.

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