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Doug Richardson, Amanda S. Black, Didier P. Monselesan, Thomas S. Moore II, James S. Risbey, Andrew Schepen, Dougal T. Squire, and Carly R. Tozer

Abstract

Subseasonal forecast skill is not homogeneous in time, and prior assessment of the likely forecast skill would be valuable for end-users. We propose a method for identifying periods of high forecast confidence using atmospheric circulation patterns, with an application to southern Australia precipitation. In particular, we use archetypal analysis to derive six patterns, called archetypes, of daily 500-hPa geopotential height (Z 500) fields over Australia. We assign Z 500 reanalysis fields to the closest-matching archetype and subsequently link the archetypes to precipitation for three key regions in the Australian agriculture and energy sectors: the Murray Basin, southwest Western Australia, and western Tasmania. Using a 20-yr hindcast dataset from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts subseasonal-to-seasonal prediction system, we identify periods of high confidence as when hindcast Z 500 fields closely match an archetype according to a distance criterion. We compare the precipitation hindcast accuracy during these confident periods compared to normal. Considering all archetypes, we show that there is greater skill during confident periods for lead times of less than 10 days in the Murray Basin and western Tasmania, and for greater than 6 days in southwest Western Australia, although these conclusions are subject to substantial uncertainty. By breaking down the skill results for each archetype individually, we highlight how skill tends to be greater than normal for those archetypes associated with drier-than-average conditions.

Open access