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Nathan J. L. Lenssen, Lisa Goddard, and Simon Mason


El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the dominant source of seasonal climate predictability. This study quantifies the historical impact of ENSO on seasonal precipitation through an update of the global ENSO teleconnection maps of Mason and Goddard. Many additional teleconnections are detected due to better handling of missing values and 20 years of additional, higher quality data. These global teleconnection maps are used as deterministic and probabilistic empirical seasonal forecasts in a verification study. The probabilistic empirical forecast model outperforms climatology in the tropics demonstrating the value of a forecast derived from the expected precipitation anomalies given the ENSO phase. Incorporating uncertainty due to SST prediction shows that teleconnection maps are skillful in predicting tropical precipitation up to a lead time of 4 months. The historical IRI seasonal forecasts generally outperform the empirical forecasts made with the teleconnection maps, demonstrating the additional value of state-of-the-art dynamical-based seasonal forecast systems. Additionally, the probabilistic empirical seasonal forecasts are proposed as reference forecasts for future skill assessments of real-time seasonal forecast systems.

Open access