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Neville Nicholls

Abstract

The absence of an upward trend in normalized building damage in Australian bushfires may reflect reduced vulnerability (due to improved weather forecasts and other factors) offsetting increases in the frequency or intensity of bushfires.

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Neville Nicholls

Abstract

A rotated principal component analysis of Australian winter (June–August) rainfall revealed two large-scale patterns of variation which together accounted for more than half of the total rainfall variance. The first pattern was a broadband stretching from the northwest to the southeast corners of the country. The second was centered in the eastern third of the continent. The two patterns were correlated to sea surface temperatures in the Indian and Pacific oceans. The first rainfall pattern was best related to the difference in sea temperatures between the Indonesian region and the central Indian Ocean. The second rainfall pattern was related to equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures. This relationship reflects the influence of the Southern Oscillation on both sea surface temperatures and Australian rainfall but the relationship between the first rainfall pattern and the difference between Indonesian and central Indian Ocean sea surface temperatures is largely independent of the Southern Oscillation. This sea surface temperature difference may be another factor influencing Australian rainfall, some-what separate from the well-known effect of the Southern Oscillation.

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Neville Nicholls

Abstract

The relationship between Indian summer (June–September) monsoon rainfall and sea surface temperatures around northern Australia–Indonesia has been explored using data from 1949 to 1991. Warm sea surface temperatures are generally associated with a good monsoon; a poor monsoon is usually accompanied and preceded by low sea surface temperatures. This finding confirms, on independent data, a suggestion made a decade ago. This study also confirms a relationship between changes in Darwin pressure and Indian monsoon rainfall. Thew two relationships appear to provide a method for predicting Indian summer monsoon rainfall a month or two before the onset of the monsoon season. Two predictors (April sea surface temperatures and the change in Darwin pressure from January to April) together account for about 50% of the variance in Indian monsoon rainfall if the data are adjusted to remove possible artificial trends in the ocean temperatures. The northern Australia–Indonesia region is clearly an important component in the large-scale interaction between the Indian monsoon and the El Niño/Southern Oscillation.

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Neville Nicholls

A number of studies in meteorological journals have documented some of the constraints to the effective use of climate forecasts. One major constraint, the considerable difficulty people have in estimating and dealing with probabilities, risk, and uncertainty, has received relatively little attention in the climate field. Some of this difficulty arises from problems known as cognitive illusions or biases. These illusions, and ways to avoid them impacting on decision making, have been studied in the fields of law, medicine, and business. The relevance of some of these illusions to climate prediction is discussed here. The optimal use of climate predictions requires providers of forecasts to understand these difficulties and to make adjustments for them in the way forecasts are prepared and disseminated.

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Neville Nicholls

The El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon affects the atmosphere and ocean over much of the globe. The resultant atmospheric and oceanic anomalies can produce a variety of biological and societal impacts. Three examples of impacts that may be predictable by monitoring simple indices of ENSO are discussed. The advantages and disadvantages of such “direct” prediction of impacts are considered.

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Neville Nicholls

Early documentary records of the British colony of New South Wales, Australia, have been examined for evidence of droughts. The years of occurrence of these early droughts were compared with the chronologies of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events, as determined by Hamilton and Garcia (1986) and Quinn et al. (1978) from documentary evidence of northern Peruvian rainfall. Most droughts were associated with ENSO events, and vice versa, confirming the relationship found in many studies using more-recent instrumental data. The study demonstrates the stability, over a long period, of the correlation between Australian droughts and ENSOs.

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Neville Nicholls

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Neville Nicholls

Abstract

Canonical correlation is proposed as an exploratory technique for studying teleconnections. It is suggested that the technique can elucidate the temporal signature (i.e., the seasonally varying nature) of the teleconnections and the lags between variables. Several teleconnections studied with the Southern Oscillation are subjected to canonical correlation as examples. The teleconnections studied are between Darwin pressure and Tahiti pressure, southeast Australian rainfall, and Willis Island air temperature. In each example the canonical correlation analysis confirms the teleconnections uncovered previously by other statistical techniques but also suggests the existence of other interesting features of these teleconnections.

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Neville Nicholls

Abstract

The number of tropical cyclones observed in the Australian region during a single cyclone season has ranged from one to nineteen since 1909. Previous studies, using limited data sets, have suggested that interannual variations in the number of cyclones are related to the Southern Oscillation and that an index of the Southern Oscillation (e.g., Darwin pressure) can be used to predict the number of cyclones expected in the coming season. This study uses a 74 year time series of tropical cyclone numbers, from the 1909/10 season to the 1982/83 season to confirm this. Strong and stable correlations are found between cyclone numbers and Darwin pressures before and during the cyclone season. Even stronger relationships are found between Darwin pressure and the number of cyclone days in a cyclone season. The correlations are strong and stable enough to allow prediction of seasonal cyclone activity from several months prior to the start of the tropical cyclone season. A simple equation for predicting seasonal cyclone activity is derived.

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Neville Nicholls

Abstract

Evidence is presented supporting the hypothesis (first expressed over 60 years ago) that interannual fluctuations of early wet season rainfall in the Indonesian Archipelago can be successfully predicted from prior observations of atmospheric pressure anomalies. It is shown that this predictability is related to sea surface temperature anomalies. The postulated mechanism for this predictability is interaction of the atmosphere and ocean leading to a tendency for anomalies in the two media to persist. Experiments to testthis postulate are suggested.

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