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Harry H. Hendon
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
, and
Chidong Zhang

Abstract

Observations of the development of recent El Niño events suggest a pivotal role for the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). Previous attempts to uncover a systematic relationship between MJO activity and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), however, have yielded conflicting results. In this study the MJO–ENSO relationship is stratified by season, and the focus is on MJO activity in the equatorial western Pacific. The results demonstrate that MJO activity in late boreal spring leads El Niño in the subsequent autumn–winter for the period 1979–2005. Spring is the season when MJO activity is least asymmetric with respect to the equator and displays the most sensitivity to SST variations at the eastern edge of the warm pool. Enhanced MJO activity in the western Pacific in spring is associated with an eastward-expanded warm pool and low-frequency westerly surface zonal wind anomalies. These sustained westerly anomalies in the western Pacific are hypothesized to project favorably onto a developing El Niño in spring.

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Harry H. Hendon
,
David W. J. Thompson
, and
Matthew C. Wheeler

Abstract

Daily variations in Australian rainfall and surface temperature associated with the Southern Hemisphere annular mode (SAM) are documented using observations for the period 1979–2005. The high index polarity of the SAM is characterized by a poleward contraction of the midlatitude westerlies. During winter, the high index polarity of the SAM is associated with decreased daily rainfall over southeast and southwest Australia, but during summer it is associated with increased daily rainfall on the southern east coast of Australia and decreased rainfall in western Tasmania. Variations in the SAM explain up to ∼15% of the weekly rainfall variance in these regions, which is comparable to the variance accounted for by the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, especially during winter. The most widespread temperature anomalies associated with the SAM occur during the spring and summer seasons, when the high index polarity of the SAM is associated with anomalously low maximum temperature over most of central/eastern subtropical Australia. The regions of decreased maximum temperature are also associated with increased rainfall. Implications for recent trends in Australian rainfall and temperature are discussed.

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Lisuo Hu
,
Jing-Jia Luo
,
Gang Huang
, and
Matthew C. Wheeler

Abstract

Central Africa (CA) is identified as a location of a large positive trend of the occurrence of heat waves (HWs) during 1979–2016, appearing to result mostly from a regime shift around the year 2000. Therefore, we study the evolution of synoptic features associated with the occurrence of HW events in CA. It is found that the HW-related circulation is typically characterized by an anomalous convergence in the upper troposphere but there are important differences for HW events occurring in the south region of CA (CA_S) versus the north region (CA_N). For the occurrence of the HW events in CA_S, the anomalous subsidence associated with upper troposphere anomalous convergence is the dominant factor for their occurrence and magnitude: the strong subsidence leads to warming through greater solar insolation. The HW events in CA_S are also accompanied by an anomalous surface anticyclone in the north with anomalous northerly flow transporting heat into the CA_S region. In contrast, although the HW events in CA_N are also associated with upper troposphere anomalous convergence, the intensity of the convergence is weak with small solar insolation. Instead, the anomalous warm advection is the main factor for determining the magnitude of the HW events in CA_N, induced by the prevailing northerly winds acting on the anomalous temperature gradient. Thus, the synoptic features associated with HW events in the CA_N and CA_S are quite different despite their nearby locations. The discovered dominant factors for the HW events in CA can be used to improve the forecast skill.

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S. Abhik
,
Harry H. Hendon
, and
Matthew C. Wheeler

Abstract

The seasonal-mean variance of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) in austral summer has recently been shown to be significantly (p < 5%) enhanced during easterly phases of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO). The impact is large, with the mean MJO variance increasing by ~50% compared to the QBO westerly phase. In contrast, we show using observed outgoing longwave radiation that seasonal variations for convectively coupled equatorial Kelvin, Rossby, and mixed Rossby–gravity waves are insensitive to the QBO. This insensitivity extends to all high-frequency (2–30-day period) and the non-MJO component of the intraseasonal (30–120-day period) convective variance. However, convectively coupled Kelvin wave variability shows a modest increase (~13%) that is marginally significant (p = 10%) during easterly phases of the QBO in austral autumn, when Kelvin wave activity is seasonally strongest along the equator. The mechanism of impact on the Kelvin wave appears to be similar to what has previously been argued for the MJO during austral summer. However, the more tilted and shallower vertical structure of the Kelvin waves suggests that they cannot tap into the extra destabilization at the tropopause provided by the easterly phase of the QBO as effectively as the MJO. Lack of impact on the convectively coupled Rossby and mixed Rossby–gravity waves is argued to stem from their horizontal structure that results in weaker divergent anomalies along the equator, where the QBO impact is greatest. Our results further emphasize that the MJO in austral summer is uniquely affected by the QBO.

Open access
Malcolm J. King
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
, and
Todd P. Lane

Abstract

The 5-day Rossby–Haurwitz wave is unlike other large-scale wave modes that interact with tropical rainfall in that associated rainfall presents as a modulation of localized areas of rainfall instead of propagating with the wave. This form of wave-modulated convective organization in climate models has received little attention. This study investigates the simulation of interactions between the 5-day wave and tropical convection in 30 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) and compares these with the interaction diagnosed from ERA-Interim and TRMM precipitation data. Models simulate the dry dynamics of the 5-day wave well, with realistic coherences between upper- and lower-tropospheric winds, as well as magnitudes and geographic distribution of wave wind anomalies being close to observations. The models consistently display significant coherences between 5-day-wave zonal winds and precipitation but perform less well at simulating the spatial distribution and magnitude of precipitation anomalies. For example, a third of the models do not reproduce significant observed anomalies near the Andes, and the best-performing model simulates only 38% of the observed variance over the tropical Andes and 24% of the observed variance over the Gulf of Guinea. Models with higher resolution perform better in simulating the magnitude of the Andean rainfall anomalies, but there is no similar relationship over the Gulf of Guinea. The evidence therefore suggests that the simulated interaction is mostly one way only, with the wave dynamics forcing the precipitation variations on the 5-day time scale.

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Andrew G. Marshall
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
, and
Tim Cowan

Abstract

We assess seasonally varying impacts of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) on Australian maximum and minimum temperature anomalies and extremes, and their modulation by El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), for the period June 1974–May 2022. Our composite-based approach uses observed temperatures from the Australian Gridded Climate Data, and 850-hPa wind data from the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis, to show how relationships to temperature and circulation evolve over the eight-phase life cycle of the MJO, which we derive from the real-time multivariate MJO index. The MJO has significant impacts on Australian temperatures and winds in all parts of the country at various times throughout the year, and to varying degrees. Two of the most pronounced impacts are 1) daytime warming across southeastern Australia in MJO phase 3 during spring associated with a strong anomalous anticyclone and 2) nighttime cooling over Queensland in MJO phase 7 during winter associated with anomalous advection of cool dry continental air. La Niña acts to significantly lessen both of these impacts, while El Niño enhances both the phase 3 warming over southern Australia in spring and the phase 7 overnight cooling over southern Queensland in winter. We show how the MJO can combine with El Niño and La Niña to have strong compounding influences, thus highlighting the importance of understanding interactions between multiple modes of climate variability and how they relate to Australian temperatures and extremes.

Free access
Tim Cowan
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
, and
Andrew G. Marshall

Abstract

This study first re-examines the impact of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) on weekly rainfall probabilities and wind anomalies across Australia, motivated by the need for a contemporary understanding of the MJO’s influence on Australian rainfall, whether this has changed from a previous assessment published in 2009. With an extra 15 years of observations, we show that the strong impact of MJO phases 5 and 6 on northern Australia’s austral summer rainfall has weakened by around 5% over Australia’s Top End. In addition, austral spring has seen a weakening of the suppressed rainfall teleconnection with MJO phases 2 and 3 over southeast Australia. The weakened relationships make it a little harder to use the MJO to explain rainfall variations over northern Australia in summer and southeast Australia in spring in the current climate. The study’s second motivation is to further document the combined influence of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the MJO on rainfall. In summer during El Niño, as compared with La Niña or neutral ENSO conditions, there are stronger reductions in rainfall probabilities over northern Australia associated with the dry MJO phases 8, 1, and 2, but the significantly increased rainfall probabilities in MJO phases 5 and 6 remain much the same. Indeed, the MJO dominates over ENSO in its influence on weekly rainfall probabilities in the north in summer. In contrast, ENSO tends to dominate across subtropical and southern Australia in spring. The updated probability maps are an important resource for estimating the intraseasonal influence of the MJO and ENSO on Australian rainfall.

Significance Statement

Accompanying forecasts of multiweek rainfall, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology provide average condition maps showing the long-term relationship between the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and Australian weekly rainfall. Motivated by discussions with northern Australian beef producers, we updated the maps using high-resolution data and found that in the austral summer, the association between the MJO and northern rainfall has weakened in the past 15 years. Despite this, the MJO still dominates over El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) as a driver of changes in week-to-week rainfall over northern Australia in summer, although ENSO dominates farther south in spring. This study gives users an improved understanding of what to expect in terms of upcoming weekly weather when interpreting rainfall and MJO predictions.

Open access
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.

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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.

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Savin S. Chand
,
John L. McBride
,
Kevin J. Tory
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
, and
Kevin J. E. Walsh

Abstract

The influence of different types of ENSO on tropical cyclone (TC) interannual variability in the central southwest Pacific region (5°–25°S, 170°E–170°W) is investigated. Using empirical orthogonal function analysis and an agglomerative hierarchical clustering of early tropical cyclone season Pacific sea surface temperature, years are classified into four separate regimes (i.e., canonical El Niño, canonical La Niña, positive-neutral, and negative-neutral) for the period between 1970 and 2009. These regimes are found to have a large impact on TC genesis over the central southwest Pacific region. Both the canonical El Niño and the positive-neutral years have increased numbers of cyclones, with an average of 4.3 yr−1 for positive-neutral and 4 yr−1 for canonical El Niño. In contrast, during a La Niña and negative-neutral events, substantially fewer TCs (averages of ~2.2 and 2.4 yr−1, respectively) are observed in the central southwest Pacific. The enhancement of TC numbers in both canonical El Niño and positive-neutral years is associated with the extension of favorable low-level cyclonic relative vorticity, and low vertical wind shear eastward across the date line. Relative humidity and SST are also very conducive for genesis in this region during canonical El Niño and positive-neutral events. The patterns are quite different, however, with the favorable conditions concentrated in the date line region for the positive-neutral, as compared with conditions farther eastward for the canonical El Niño regime. A significant result of the study is the demonstration that ENSO-neutral events can be objectively clustered into two separate regimes, each with very different impacts on TC genesis.

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