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Terence J. O’Kane, Didier P. Monselesan, and James S. Risbey

Abstract

The authors undertake a multiscale spectral reexamination of the variability of the Pacific–South American (PSA) pattern and the mechanisms by which this variability occurs. Time scales from synoptic to interannual are investigated, focusing on the means by which tropical variability is communicated to the midlatitudes and on in situ forcing within the midlatitude waveguides. Particular interest is paid to what fraction of the total variability associated with the PSA, occurring on interannual time scales, is attributable to tropical forcing relative to that occurring on synoptic and intraseasonal time scales via internal waveguide dynamics. In general, it is found that the eastward-propagating wave train pattern typically associated with the PSA manifests across time scales from synoptic to interannual, with the majority of the variability occurring on synoptic-to-intraseasonal time scales largely independent of tropical convection. It is found that the small fraction of the total variance with a tropical signal occurs via the zonal component of the thermal wind modulating both the subtropical and polar jets. The respective roles of the Hadley circulation and stationary Rossby wave sources are also examined. Further, a PSA-like mode is identified in terms of the slow components of higher-order modes of tropospheric geopotential height. This study reestablishes the multiscale nonlinear nature of the PSA modes arising largely as a manifestation of internal midlatitude waveguide dynamics and local disturbances.

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James S. Risbey, Terence J. O’Kane, Didier P. Monselesan, Christian Franzke, and Illia Horenko

Abstract

This study applies a finite-element, bounded-variation, vector autoregressive method to assess midtropospheric flow regimes characterized by regime switches between metastable states. The flow is assessed in reanalysis data from three different reanalysis sets assimilating surface data only; surface and upper-air data; and ocean, surface, and upper-air data. Results are generally consistent across the reanalyses and confirm the utility of surface-only reanalyses for capturing midtropospheric variability. The method is applied to a set of regional domains in the Northern Hemisphere and for the full-hemispheric domain. Composites of the metastable states for each region yield structures that are consistent with the well-documented teleconnection modes: the North Atlantic Oscillation in the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific–North America pattern (PNA) in the Pacific Ocean, and Scandinavian blocking over Eurasia. The PNA mode includes a clear waveguide structure in midlatitudes. The Northern Hemisphere domain yields a state composite that reflects aspects of an annular mode (Arctic Oscillation), where the annular component in midlatitudes comprises a circumglobal waveguide. The Northern Hemisphere waveguide is characterized by wavenumber 5. Some of the nodes in this circumglobal waveguide manifest as part of regional dipole structures like the PNA. This situation contrasts with the Southern Hemisphere, where the circumglobal waveguide exhibits wavenumbers 3 and 5 and is monopolar. For each of the regions and modes examined, the annual time series of residence percent in each state displays prominent decadal variability and provides a clear means of identifying regimes of the major teleconnection modes.

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Carly R. Tozer, James S. Risbey, Terence J. O’Kane, Didier P. Monselesan, and Michael J. Pook

Abstract

We assess the large-scale atmospheric dynamics influencing rainfall extremes in Tasmania, located within the Southern Hemisphere storm track. We characterize wet and dry multiday rainfall extremes in western and eastern Tasmania, two distinct climate regimes, and construct atmospheric flow composites around these extreme events. We consider the onset and decay of the events and find a link between Rossby wave trains propagating in the polar jet waveguide and wet and dry extremes across Tasmania. Of note is that the wave trains exhibit varying behavior during the different extremes. In the onset phase of rainfall extremes in western Tasmania, there is a coherent wave train in the Indian Ocean, which becomes circumglobal in extent and quasi-stationary as the event establishes and persists. Wet and dry extremes in this region are influenced by opposite phases of this circumglobal wave train pattern. In eastern Tasmania, wet extremes relate to a propagating wave train, which is first established in the Indian Ocean sector and propagates eastward to the Pacific Ocean sector as the event progresses. During dry extremes in eastern Tasmania, the wave train is first established in the Pacific Ocean, as opposed to Indian Ocean, and persists in this sector for the entire event, with a structure indicative of the Pacific–South American pattern. The findings regarding different wave train forms and their relationship to rainfall extremes have implications for extreme event attribution in other regions around the globe.

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Aimée B. A. Slangen, John A. Church, Xuebin Zhang, and Didier P. Monselesan

Abstract

Changes in Earth’s climate are influenced by internal climate variability and external forcings, such as changes in solar radiation, volcanic eruptions, anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHG), and aerosols. Although the response of surface temperature to external forcings has been studied extensively, this has not been done for sea level. Here, a range of climate model experiments for the twentieth century is used to study the response of global and regional sea level change to external climate forcings. Both the global mean thermosteric sea level and the regional dynamic sea level patterns show clear responses to anthropogenic forcings that are significantly different from internal climate variability and larger than the difference between models driven by the same external forcing. The regional sea level patterns are directly related to changes in surface winds in response to the external forcings. The spread between different realizations of the same model experiment is consistent with internal climate variability derived from preindustrial control simulations. The spread between the different models is larger than the internal variability, mainly in regions with large sea level responses. Although the sea level responses to GHG and anthropogenic aerosol forcing oppose each other in the global mean, there are differences on a regional scale, offering opportunities for distinguishing between these two forcings in observed sea level change.

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Terence J. O’Kane, James S. Risbey, Christian Franzke, Illia Horenko, and Didier P. Monselesan

Abstract

Changes in the metastability of the Southern Hemisphere 500-hPa circulation are examined using both cluster analysis techniques and split-flow blocking indices. The cluster methodology is a purely data-driven approach for parameterization whereby a multiscale approximation to nonstationary dynamical processes is achieved through optimal sequences of locally stationary fast vector autoregressive factor (VARX) processes and some slow (or persistent) hidden process switching between them. Comparison is made with blocking indices commonly used in weather forecasting and climate analysis to identify dynamically relevant metastable regimes in the 500-hPa circulation in both reanalysis and Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) datasets. The analysis characterizes the metastable regime in both reanalysis and model datasets prior to 1978 as positive and negative phases of a hemispheric midlatitude blocking state with the southern annular mode (SAM) associated with a transition state. Post-1978, the SAM emerges as a true metastable state replacing the negative phase of the hemispheric blocking pattern. The hidden state frequency of occurrences exhibits strong trends. The blocking pattern dominates in the early 1980s, and then gradually decreases. There is a corresponding increase in the SAM frequency of occurrence. This trend is largely evident in the reanalysis summer and spring but was not evident in the AMIP dataset. Further comparison with the split-flow blocking indices reveals a superficial correspondence between the cluster hidden state frequency of occurrences and split-flow indices. Examination of composite states shows that the blocking indices capture splitting of the zonal flow whereas the cluster composites reflect coherent block formation. Differences in blocking climatologies from the respective methods are discussed.

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Carly R. Tozer, James S. Risbey, Didier P. Monselesan, Dougal T. Squire, Matthew A. Chamberlain, Richard J. Matear, and Tilo Ziehn

Abstract

We assess the representation of multiday temperature and rainfall extremes in southeast Australia in three coupled general circulation models (GCMs) of varying resolution. We evaluate the statistics of the modeled extremes in terms of their frequency, duration, and magnitude compared to observations, and the model representation of the midtropospheric circulation (synoptic and large scale) associated with the extremes. We find that the models capture the statistics of observed heatwaves reasonably well, though some models are “too wet” to adequately capture the observed duration of dry spells but not always wet enough to capture the magnitude of extreme wet events. Despite the inability of the models to simulate all extreme event statistics, the process evaluation indicates that the onset and decay of the observed synoptic structures are well simulated in the models, including for wet and dry extremes. We also show that the large-scale wave train structures associated with the observed extremes are reasonably well simulated by the models although their broader onset and decay is not always captured in the models. The results presented here provide some context for, and confidence in, the use of the coupled GCMs in climate prediction and projection studies for regional extremes.

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James S. Risbey, Didier P. Monselesan, Terence J. O’Kane, Carly R. Tozer, Michael J. Pook, and Peter T. Hayman

Abstract

We define and examine extreme frost events at three station locations across southern Australia. A synoptic assessment of the events shows that they are generally characterized by passage of a front or trough followed by a developing blocking high. Frost typically occurs at the leading edge of the block. The very cold air pool leading to the frost event is the result of descent of cold, dry midtropospheric air parcels from regions poleward of the station. The air is exceptionally cold because it is advected across the strong meridional temperature gradients in the storm track. The air is dry because this equatorward meridional pathway requires descent and so must have origins well above the surface in the dryer midtroposphere. The position of the block and location of the dry descent are dynamically determined by large-scale waveguide modes in the polar jet waveguide. The role of the waveguide modes is deduced from composites of midtropospheric flow anomalies over the days preceding and after the frost events. These show organized wavenumber 3 or 4 wave trains, with the block associated with the frost formed as a node of the wave train. The wave trains resemble known waveguide modes such as the Pacific–South America mode, and the frost event projects clearly onto these modes during their life cycle. The strong interannual and decadal variability of extreme frost events at a location can be understood in light of event dependence on organized waveguide modes.

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Terence J. O’Kane, Paul A. Sandery, Didier P. Monselesan, Pavel Sakov, Matthew A. Chamberlain, Richard J. Matear, Mark A. Collier, Dougal T. Squire, and Lauren Stevens

Abstract

We develop and compare variants of coupled data assimilation (DA) systems based on ensemble optimal interpolation (EnOI) and ensemble transform Kalman filter (ETKF) methods. The assimilation system is first tested on a small paradigm model of the coupled tropical–extratropical climate system, then implemented for a coupled general circulation model (GCM). Strongly coupled DA was employed specifically to assess the impact of assimilating ocean observations [sea surface temperature (SST), sea surface height (SSH), and sea surface salinity (SSS), Argo, XBT, CTD, moorings] on the atmospheric state analysis update via the cross-domain error covariances from the coupled-model background ensemble. We examine the relationship between ensemble spread, analysis increments, and forecast skill in multiyear ENSO prediction experiments with a particular focus on the atmospheric response to tropical ocean perturbations. Initial forecast perturbations generated from bred vectors (BVs) project onto disturbances at and below the thermocline with similar structures to ETKF perturbations. BV error growth leads ENSO SST phasing by 6 months whereupon the dominant mechanism communicating tropical ocean variability to the extratropical atmosphere is via tropical convection modulating the Hadley circulation. We find that bred vectors specific to tropical Pacific thermocline variability were the most effective choices for ensemble initialization and ENSO forecasting.

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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
Carly R. Tozer, James S. Risbey, Michael Grose, Didier P. Monselesan, Dougal T. Squire, Amanda S. Black, Doug Richardson, Sarah N. Sparrow, Sihan Li, and David Wallom
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