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Eun-Pa Lim and Ian Simmonds

Abstract

The mean characteristics and trends of Southern Hemisphere (SH) winter extratropical cyclones occurring at six levels of the troposphere over the period 1979–2001 have been investigated using the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40) data. Cyclonic systems were identified with the Melbourne University cyclone finding and tracking scheme.

This study shows that mean sea level pressure (MSLP) cyclones are more numerous, more intense, smaller, deeper, and slower moving than higher-level cyclones. The novel vertical tracing scheme devised for this research revealed that about 52% of SH winter MSLP cyclones have a vertically well organized structure, extending through to the 500-hPa level. About 80% of these vertically coherent SH cyclones keep their westward tilt until the surface cyclones reach their maximum depths, and the mean distance is 300 km between the surface and the 500-hPa level cyclone centers when the surface cyclones obtain their maturity. According to the authors’ definition of vertical organization, explosively developing cyclones are vertically very well organized systems, whose surface development is antecedent to their 500-hPa level counterpart.

Over 1979–2001 cyclones have increased in their system density, intensity, and translational velocity but decreased in their scale at almost all levels. However, some of the trends are not statistically significant. The proportion of vertically well organized systems in the entire population of SH winter extratropical cyclones has considerably increased over the last 23 yr, and the mean distance between the surface and the 500-hPa- level cyclone centers has decreased. Such changes in vertical organization of extratropical cyclones are statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.

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Eun-Pa Lim and Ian Simmonds

Abstract

A compilation of Southern Hemisphere (SH) explosively developing cyclones (or “bombs”) has been assembled based on the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–Department of Energy reanalysis-2 data over the 21-yr period from 1979 to 1999. The identification of these features was undertaken with an objective automated cyclone finding and tracking scheme. The procedure allows for the confounding influence of spatial variations of climatological mean pressure on the pressure deepening of explosive cyclones, a perspective of particular importance in the SH.

On average, 26 explosive cyclones occur per year in the SH. They are more prevalent in winter although their seasonality is more modest than that seen in the Northern Hemisphere (NH). The distribution of SH explosive cyclones has a close association with that of strong baroclinicity, although the relationship is not one to one. It is found that many of these cyclones occurring south of 50°S show equatorward movement, in contrast with the poleward motion of most NH bombs. The explosive cyclones exhibit greater mean intensity and depth than does the entire population of cyclonic systems.

Aspects of NH explosive cyclones revealed in the reanalysis-2 set are briefly examined, with a view to comparing them with the details revealed about SH events. The authors' analysis detects, on average, 45 explosive cyclones per year in that hemisphere. It is found that over the last 21 yr the number of these systems has increased globally and in both hemispheres, and that positive trends of global and SH systems are statistically significant.

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Eun-Pa Lim and Harry H. Hendon

Abstract

This study investigates the causes and predictability of the different springtime rainfall responses over Australia for El Niño in 1997 and 2002. The rainfall deficit over Australia is generally assumed to be linearly related to the strength of El Niño. However, Australia received near-normal springtime rainfall during the record strong El Niño in 1997, whereas it suffered from severe drought, especially in the east, during the weak El Niño of 2002.

Statistical reconstruction of the rainfall anomalies and forecasts produced from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s dynamical seasonal forecast system [Predictive Ocean and Atmosphere Model for Australia (POAMA)] demonstrated that the eastward and westward shifts of the maximum SST warming of El Niño contributed to the near-normal and dry responses of Australian spring rainfall in 1997 and 2002, respectively. Hence, the contrasting rainfall responses were largely predictable. However, the dry conditions in 2002 were significantly amplified by the occurrence of the record strength negative phase of the southern annular mode (SAM), which could only be predicted with the use of realistic atmospheric initial conditions in the atmosphere–ocean coupled configuration of POAMA. Therefore, predictability of the severity of the 2002 drought over Australia was strongly constrained by the predictability of the SAM, despite the high predictability of the drier than normal condition of 2002 spring that stems from the anomalous central Pacific warming of 2002 El Niño.

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Ian Simmonds, Kevin Keay, and Eun-Pa Lim

Abstract

The recent NCEP–Department of Energy (DOE) Reanalysis-2 update of the original NCEP–NCAR dataset provides what is arguably the highest quality analyses spanning two decades available for the high southern latitudes. It therefore offers an excellent starting point from which to assemble a modern, comprehensive, and reliable picture of synoptic activity in the subantarctic region. This set, covering the “modern satellite” era from January 1979 to February 2000, is used herein. In addition, the exploration in this study has been conducted with sophisticated feature-tracking and trajectory analysis software.

It is shown that the high southern latitude cyclone system density is greatest in the Indian Ocean and to the south of Australia near, or to the south of, 60°S. The numbers in winter exceed those in summer, except over a few, but important, regions such as the Bellingshausen Sea. The Antarctic coastal region is confirmed as one of high cyclonicity, as is that in the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula and over and to the north of Drake Passage. Cyclolysis is much more confined to the near-coastal region. The mean intensity, radius, and depth of subantarctic cyclones assume their largest values near 60°S.

It is shown that the rate of change of cyclone central pressure is not a particularly useful gauge of intensification in the Southern Hemisphere, where large spatial variations of climatological pressure are found. When appropriate adjustments are made, it is found that the “corrected” central pressure of cyclones is seen to increase along the track for most systems found south of 45°S. The paper also documents the range of starting points of 4-day 500-hPa trajectories that reach points on the Antarctic coast. The broad frequency distribution reflects the very energetic nature of synoptic activity in the region. The counts of cyclones in the 21 yr of NCEP–DOE analyses show negative trends over most of the subantarctic region. At the same time, however, the annual mean cyclone intensity, radius, and depth all exhibit increases.

Finally, the frequency of occurrence of rapidly developing cyclones (or “bombs”) in the subantarctic environment is determined, and it is found that they are not uncommon features. Their number shows a maximum in winter but, unlike the Northern Hemisphere situation, many are also found in summer.

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Pandora Hope, Eun-Pa Lim, Harry Hendon, and Guomin Wang
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Harry H. Hendon, Eun-Pa Lim, and Guo Liu

Abstract

Forecast skill for seasonal mean rainfall across northern Australia is lower during the summer monsoon than in the premonsoon transition season based on 25 years of hindcasts using the Predictive Ocean Atmosphere Model for Australia (POAMA) coupled model seasonal forecast system. The authors argue that this partly reflects an intrinsic property of the monsoonal system, whereby seasonally varying air–sea interaction in the seas around northern Australia promotes predictability in the premonsoon season and demotes predictability after monsoon onset. Trade easterlies during the premonsoon season support a positive feedback between surface winds, SST, and rainfall, which results in stronger and more persistent SST anomalies to the north of Australia that compliment the remote forcing of Australian rainfall from El Niño in the Pacific. After onset of the Australian summer monsoon, this local feedback is not supported in the monsoonal westerly regime, resulting in weaker SST anomalies to the north of Australia and with lower persistence than in the premonsoon season. Importantly, the seasonality of this air–sea interaction is captured in the POAMA forecast model. Furthermore, analysis of perfect model forecasts and forecasts generated by prescribing observed SST results in largely the same conclusion (i.e., significantly lower actual and potential forecast skill during the monsoon), thereby supporting the notion that air–sea interaction contributes to intrinsically lower predictability of rainfall during the monsoon.

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Eun-Pa Lim, Harry H. Hendon, and Harun Rashid

Abstract

Predictability of the southern annular mode (SAM) for lead times beyond 1–2 weeks has traditionally been considered to be low because the SAM is regarded as an internal mode of variability with a typical decorrelation time of about 10 days. However, the association of the SAM with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) suggests the potential for making seasonal predictions of the SAM. In this study the authors explore seasonal predictability and the predictive skill of SAM using observations and retrospective forecasts (hindcasts) from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology dynamical seasonal forecast system [the Predictive Ocean and Atmosphere Model for Australia, version 2 (POAMA2)].

Based on the observed seasonal relationships of the SAM with tropical sea surface temperatures, two distinctive periods of high seasonal predictability are suggested: austral late autumn to winter and late spring to early summer. Predictability of the SAM in the austral cold seasons stems from the association of the SAM with warm-pool (or Modoki/central Pacific) ENSO, whereas predictability in the austral warm seasons stems from the association of the SAM with cold-tongue (or eastern Pacific) ENSO.

Using seasonal hindcasts for 1980–2010 from POAMA2, it is shown that the observed relationship between SAM and ENSO is faithfully depicted and SST variations associated with ENSO are skillfully predicted. Consequently, POAMA2 can skillfully predict the phase and amplitude of seasonal anomalies of the SAM in early summer and early winter for at least one season in advance. Zero-lead monthly forecasts of the SAM are furthermore shown to be highly skillful in almost all months, which is ascribed to predictability stemming from observed atmospheric initial conditions.

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Harry H. Hendon, Eun-Pa Lim, and Hanh Nguyen

Abstract

Seasonal variations of subtropical precipitation anomalies associated with the southern annular mode (SAM) are explored for the period 1979–2011. In all seasons, high-polarity SAM, which refers to a poleward-shifted eddy-driven westerly jet, results in increased precipitation in high latitudes and decreased precipitation in midlatitudes as a result of the concomitant poleward shift of the midlatitude storm track. In addition, during spring–autumn, high SAM also results in increased rainfall in the subtropics. This subtropical precipitation anomaly is absent during winter. This seasonal variation of the response of subtropical precipitation to the SAM is shown to be consistent with the seasonal variation of the eddy-induced divergent meridional circulation in the subtropics (strong in summer and weak in winter). The lack of an induced divergent meridional circulation in the subtropics during winter is attributed to the presence of the wintertime subtropical jet, which causes a broad latitudinal span of eddy momentum flux divergence due primarily to higher phase speed eddies breaking poleward of the subtropical jet and lower speed eddies not breaking until they reach the equatorward flank of the subtropical jet. During the other seasons, when the subtropical jet is less distinctive, the critical line for both high and low speed eddies is on the equatorward flank of the single jet and so breaking in the subtropics occurs over a narrow range of latitudes. The implications of these findings for the seasonality of future subtropical climate change, in which a shift to high SAM in all seasons is expected to be promoted, are discussed.

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Guomin Wang, Pandora Hope, Eun-Pa Lim, Harry H. Hendon, and Julie M Arblaster

Abstract

When record-breaking climate and weather extremes occur, decision-makers and planners want to know whether they are random natural events with historical levels of reoccurrence or are reflective of an altered frequency or intensity as a result of climate change. This paper describes a method to attribute extreme weather and climate events to observed increases in atmospheric CO2 using an initialized subseasonal to seasonal coupled global climate prediction system. Application of this method provides quantitative estimates of the contribution arising from increases in the level of atmospheric CO2 to individual weather and climate extreme events. Using a coupled subseasonal to seasonal forecast system differs from other methods because it has the merit of being initialized with the observed conditions and subsequently reproducing the observed events and their mechanisms. This can aid understanding when the reforecasts with and without enhanced CO2 are compared and communicated to a general audience. Atmosphere–ocean interactions are accounted for. To illustrate the method, we attribute the record Australian heat event of October 2015. We find that about half of the October 2015 Australia-wide temperature anomaly is due to the increase in atmospheric CO2 since 1960. This method has the potential to provide attribution statements for forecast events within an outlook period (i.e., before they occur). This will allow for informed messaging to be available as required when an extreme event occurs, which is of particular use to weather and climate services.

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Bo-Joung Park, Yeon-Hee Kim, Seung-Ki Min, and Eun-Pa Lim

Abstract

Observed long-term variations in summer season timing and length in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) continents and their subregions were analyzed using temperature-based indices. The climatological mean showed coastal–inland contrast; summer starts and ends earlier inland than in coastal areas because of differences in heat capacity. Observations for the past 60 years (1953–2012) show lengthening of the summer season with earlier summer onset and delayed summer withdrawal across the NH. The summer onset advance contributed more to the observed increase in summer season length in many regions than the delay of summer withdrawal. To understand anthropogenic and natural contributions to the observed change, summer season trends from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) multimodel simulations forced with the observed external forcings [anthropogenic plus natural forcing (ALL), natural forcing only (NAT), and greenhouse gas forcing only (GHG)] were analyzed. ALL and GHG simulations were found to reproduce the overall observed global and regional lengthening trends, but NAT had negligible trends, which implies that increased greenhouse gases were the main cause of the observed changes. However, ALL runs tend to underestimate the observed trend of summer onset and overestimate that of withdrawal, the causes of which remain to be determined. Possible contributions of multidecadal variabilities, such as Pacific decadal oscillation and Atlantic multidecadal oscillation, to the observed regional trends in summer season length were also assessed. The results suggest that multidecadal variability can explain a moderate portion (about ±10%) of the observed trends in summer season length, mainly over the high latitudes.

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