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Kyle M. Nardi, Cory F. Baggett, Elizabeth A. Barnes, Eric D. Maloney, Daniel S. Harnos, and Laura M. Ciasto

Abstract

Although useful at short and medium ranges, current dynamical models provide little additional skill for precipitation forecasts beyond week 2 (14 days). However, recent studies have demonstrated that downstream forcing by the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) influences subseasonal variability, and predictability, of sensible weather across North America. Building on prior studies evaluating the influence of the MJO and QBO on the subseasonal prediction of North American weather, we apply an empirical model that uses the MJO and QBO as predictors to forecast anomalous (i.e., categorical above- or below-normal) pentadal precipitation at weeks 3–6 (15–42 days). A novel aspect of our study is the application and evaluation of the model for subseasonal prediction of precipitation across the entire contiguous United States and Alaska during all seasons. In almost all regions and seasons, the model provides “skillful forecasts of opportunity” for 20%–50% of all forecasts valid weeks 3–6. We also find that this model skill is correlated with historical responses of precipitation, and related synoptic quantities, to the MJO and QBO. Finally, we show that the inclusion of the QBO as a predictor increases the frequency of skillful forecasts of opportunity over most of the contiguous United States and Alaska during all seasons. These findings will provide guidance to forecasters regarding the utility of the MJO and QBO for subseasonal precipitation outlooks.

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Annarita Mariotti, Cory Baggett, Elizabeth A. Barnes, Emily Becker, Amy Butler, Dan C. Collins, Paul A. Dirmeyer, Laura Ferranti, Nathaniel C. Johnson, Jeanine Jones, Ben P. Kirtman, Andrea L. Lang, Andrea Molod, Matthew Newman, Andrew W. Robertson, Siegfried Schubert, Duane E. Waliser, and John Albers

Abstract

There is high demand and a growing expectation for predictions of environmental conditions that go beyond 0–14-day weather forecasts with outlooks extending to one or more seasons and beyond. This is driven by the needs of the energy, water management, and agriculture sectors, to name a few. There is an increasing realization that, unlike weather forecasts, prediction skill on longer time scales can leverage specific climate phenomena or conditions for a predictable signal above the weather noise. Currently, it is understood that these conditions are intermittent in time and have spatially heterogeneous impacts on skill, hence providing strategic windows of opportunity for skillful forecasts. Research points to such windows of opportunity, including El Niño or La Niña events, active periods of the Madden–Julian oscillation, disruptions of the stratospheric polar vortex, when certain large-scale atmospheric regimes are in place, or when persistent anomalies occur in the ocean or land surface. Gains could be obtained by increasingly developing prediction tools and metrics that strategically target these specific windows of opportunity. Across the globe, reevaluating forecasts in this manner could find value in forecasts previously discarded as not skillful. Users’ expectations for prediction skill could be more adequately met, as they are better aware of when and where to expect skill and if the prediction is actionable. Given that there is still untapped potential, in terms of process understanding and prediction methodologies, it is safe to expect that in the future forecast opportunities will expand. Process research and the development of innovative methodologies will aid such progress.

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