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Wasyl Drosdowsky and Matthew C. Wheeler

Abstract

A forecast product focusing on the onset of the north Australian wet season using a dynamical ocean–atmosphere model is developed and verified. Onset is defined to occur when a threshold rainfall accumulation of 50 mm is reached from 1 September. This amount has been shown to be useful for agricultural applications, as it is about what is required to generate new plant growth after the usually dry period of June–August. The normal (median) onset date occurs first around Darwin in the north and Cairns in the east in late October, and is progressively later for locations farther inland away from these locations. However, there is significant interannual variability in the onset, and skillful predictions of this can be valuable. The potential of the Predictive Ocean–Atmosphere Model for Australia (POAMA), version 2, for making probabilistic predictions of onset, derived from its multimember ensemble, is shown. Using 50 yr of hindcasts, POAMA is found to skillfully predict the variability of onset, despite a generally dry bias, with the “percent correct” exceeding 70% over about a third of the Northern Territory. In comparison to a previously developed statistical method based solely on El Niño–Southern Oscillation, the POAMA system shows improved skill scores, suggesting that it gains from additional sources of predictability. However, the POAMA hindcasts do not reproduce the observed long-term trend in onset dates over inland regions to an earlier date despite being initialized with the observed warming ocean temperatures. Understanding and modeling this trend should lead to further enhancements in skill.

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Miloud Bessafi and Matthew C. Wheeler

Abstract

The subseasonal modulation of tropical cyclone (TC) genesis by large-scale atmospheric wave modes is studied using data from the south Indian Ocean region. The modes considered are the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), and the convectively coupled equatorial Rossby (ER), Kelvin, and mixed Rossby–gravity (MRG) waves. Analysis of all TCs west of 100°E reveals a large and statistically significant modulation by the MJO and ER waves, a small yet significant modulation by Kelvin waves, and a statistically insignificant modulation by MRG waves. Attribution of the observed TC modulation was made through examination of the wave-induced perturbations to the dynamical fields of low-level vorticity, vertical shear, and deep convection. Possible thermodynamic influences on TC genesis were neglected. Different combinations of the three dynamical fields were necessary for successful attribution for each of the large-scale wave modes. For example, for the MJO, the modulation was best attributable to its perturbations to both the vorticity and shear fields, while for the ER wave, it was its perturbations to the convection and vorticity fields that appeared to best be able to explain the modulation. It appears that there is no single factor that can be used for the attribution of all subseasonal TC variability. Finally, it is shown that the modulation of TCs by at least the MJO and ER waves is large enough to warrant further investigation for prediction on the weekly time scale.

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Anne Leroy and Matthew C. Wheeler

Abstract

A statistical prediction scheme, employing logistic regression, is developed to predict the probability of tropical cyclone (TC) formation in zones of the Southern Hemisphere during forthcoming weeks. Through physical reasoning, examination of previous research, and some new analysis, five predictors were chosen for this purpose: one representing the climatological seasonal cycle of TC activity in each zone, two representing the eastward propagation of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), and a further two representing the leading patterns of interannual sea surface temperature variability in the Indo-Pacific Oceans. Cross-validated hindcasts were generated, being careful to use the predictors at lags that replicate what can be performed in real time. All predictors contribute significantly to the skill of the hindcasts for at least some leads in the majority of zones. In particular, it is found that inclusion of indices of the MJO as predictors leads to increased skill out to about the third week. Beyond the third week, the skill asymptotically approaches that which can be achieved through consideration of the seasonal cycle and interannual variability alone. Furthermore, the importance of a simple consideration of the seasonal cycle of TC activity for intraseasonal TC prediction, for all forecast leads, is demonstrated.

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Matthew C. Wheeler and Harry H. Hendon

Abstract

A seasonally independent index for monitoring the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) is described. It is based on a pair of empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) of the combined fields of near-equatorially averaged 850-hPa zonal wind, 200-hPa zonal wind, and satellite-observed outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) data. Projection of the daily observed data onto the multiple-variable EOFs, with the annual cycle and components of interannual variability removed, yields principal component (PC) time series that vary mostly on the intraseasonal time scale of the MJO only. This projection thus serves as an effective filter for the MJO without the need for conventional time filtering, making the PC time series an effective index for real-time use.

The pair of PC time series that form the index are called the Real-time Multivariate MJO series 1 (RMM1) and 2 (RMM2). The properties of the RMM series and the spatial patterns of atmospheric variability they capture are explored. Despite the fact that RMM1 and RMM2 describe evolution of the MJO along the equator that is independent of season, the coherent off-equatorial behavior exhibits strong seasonality. In particular, the northward, propagating behavior in the Indian monsoon and the southward extreme of convection into the Australian monsoon are captured by monitoring the seasonally independent eastward propagation in the equatorial belt. The previously described interannual modulation of the global variance of the MJO is also well captured.

Applications of the RMM series are investigated. One application is through their relationship with the onset dates of the monsoons in Australia and India; while the onsets can occur at any time during the convectively enhanced half of the MJO cycle, they rarely occur during the suppressed half. Another application is the modulation of the probability of extreme weekly rainfall; in the “Top End” region around Darwin, Australia, the swings in probability represent more than a tripling in the likelihood of an upper-quintile weekly rainfall event from the dry to wet MJO phase.

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Harry H. Hendon and Matthew C. Wheeler

Abstract

Three aspects of space–time spectral analysis are explored for diagnosis of the organization of tropical convection by the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and other equatorial wave modes: 1) definition of the background spectrum upon which spectral peaks are assessed, 2) alternate variance preserving display of the spectra, and 3) the space–time coherence spectrum. Here the background spectrum at each zonal wavenumber is assumed to result from a red noise process. The associated decorrelation time for the red noise process for tropical convection is found to be half as long as for zonal wind, reflecting the different physical processes controlling each field. The significance of spectral peaks associated with equatorial wave modes for outgoing longwave radiation (OLR), which is a proxy for precipitating deep convection, and zonal winds that stand out above the red background spectrum is similar to that identified using a background spectrum resulting from ad hoc smoothing of the original spectrum. A variance-preserving display of the space–time power spectrum with a logarithmic frequency axis is useful for directly detecting Kelvin waves (periods 5–15 days for eastward zonal wavenumbers 1–5) and for highlighting their distinction from the MJO. The space–time coherence of OLR and zonal wind is predominantly associated with the MJO and other equatorial waves. The space–time coherence is independent of estimating the background spectrum and is quantifiable; thus, it is suggested as a useful metric for the MJO and other equatorial waves in observations and simulations. The space–time coherence is also used to quantify the association of Kelvin waves in the stratosphere with convective variability in the troposphere and for detection of barotropic Rossby–Haurwitz waves.

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Frédéric Vitart, Anne Leroy, and Matthew C. Wheeler

Abstract

The skill of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) forecast system to predict the occurrence of tropical cyclones (TCs) over the Southern Hemisphere during weekly periods has been evaluated and compared to the skill of a state-of-the-art statistical model. Probabilistic skill scores have been applied to a common series of hindcasts produced with the dynamical and statistical models. The ECMWF hindcasts have higher relative operating characteristic (ROC) scores than the statistical model for the first three weeks of integrations. The dynamical model also has skill over the Indian Ocean in week 4.

The ECMWF hindcasts have lower Brier skill scores than the statistical model after week 2, which is likely because this version of the ECMWF model creates about 30% more TCs than observations and therefore generates a large number of false alarms. A simple calibration has been applied to the ECMWF probabilistic forecasts that significantly improves their reliability, but at the expense of the sharpness. The calibrated dynamical model has higher Brier skill scores than the statistical model during the first three weeks, although the statistical model remains more reliable.

The multimodel combination of the calibrated dynamical forecasts with the statistical forecasts helps to improve the reliability of the ECMWF forecasts. The Brier skill score of the multimodel exceeds the Brier skill scores of the individual models, but with less sharpness than the calibrated dynamical model. This result suggests that the statistical model can be useful as a benchmark for dynamical models and as a component of a multimodel combination to improve the skill of the dynamical model. Potential economic value diagrams confirm that the multimodel forecasts are useful up to week 3 over the Southern Hemisphere.

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

Abstract

The seasonality, regionality, and nature of the association between tropical convection and the 5-day wavenumber-1 Rossby–Haurwitz wave are examined. Spectral coherences between daily outgoing longwave radiation (OLR), a proxy for convection, and 850-hPa zonal wind over the period January 1979–February 2013 are compared for different seasons and for phases of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO). Increased coherence, indicating a stronger association, occurs in boreal spring and autumn, with slightly reduced coherence in boreal summer and significantly reduced coherence in boreal winter. The regionality of the association is examined using lagged-regression techniques. Significant local signals in tropical convection are found over West Africa, the tropical Andes, the eastern Pacific Ocean, and the Marshall Islands. The relative phasing between the 5-day wave wind and OLR signals is in quadrature in Africa and the Marshall Islands, in phase with easterlies over the Andes, and out of phase with easterlies over the eastern Pacific. Frequency spectra of precipitation averaged over the identified local regions reveal spectral peaks in the 4–6-day range. The phasing between the large-scale wind and local convection signals suggests that the 5-day wave is actively modulating the convection around the Americas.

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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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Suzana J. Camargo, Matthew C. Wheeler, and Adam H. Sobel

Abstract

The modulation of tropical cyclone activity by the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) is explored using an empirical genesis potential (GP) index. Composite anomalies of the genesis index associated with the different MJO phases are consistent with the composite anomalies in TC genesis frequency that occur in the same phases, indicating that the index captures the changes in the environment that are at least in part responsible for the genesis frequency changes. Of the four environmental variables that enter the genesis potential index, the midlevel relative humidity makes the largest contribution to the MJO composite GP anomalies. The second largest contribution comes from the low-level absolute vorticity, and only very minor contributions come from the vertical wind shear and potential intensity.

When basin-integrated MJO composite anomalies of the GP index are regressed against basin-integrated composite anomalies of TC genesis frequency, the results differ quantitatively from those obtained from the analogous calculation performed on the annual climatologies in the two quantities. The GP index captures the MJO modulation of TC genesis to a lesser degree than the climatological annual cycle of genesis (to which it was originally tuned). This may be due to weaknesses of the reanalysis or indicative of the importance of precursor disturbances, not well captured in the GP index computed from weekly data, to the intraseasonal TC genesis frequency fluctuations.

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