Quantifying Southern Oscillation-Precipitation Relationships

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  • 1 Climate Prediction Center, NCEP/NWS/NOAA, Washington, D. C.
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Abstract

A series of earlier studies has identified regions of the world in which precipitation appears to have a consistent relationship with the Southern Oscillation (SO). In this paper, the authors attempt to quantify this relationship based on shifts in the statistical distribution of precipitation amounts with emphasis on shifts in the median, which are associated with the warm (low SO index) and cold (high SO index) phases of the SO. This paper is partially an attempt to provide long-range forecasters with some guidance in making seasonal and multiseasonal predictions. Observed SO-related shifts in the median precipitation amounts, expressed as percentiles with respect to “climatological” conditions, can he used as a simple indication of the “typical” SO response for a given region. In general, the authors find that for many of the large areas identified in previous studies, median precipitation amounts shift on the order of 20 percentile points, that is, from the median to either the 30th percentile or the 70th percentile. The authors also find considerable spatial variations in the typical patterns of SO-related precipitation percentiles in some regions.

This study also provides empirically based estimates of SO-related precipitation anomalies in terms of precipitation rates for use in numerical model studies. For selected areas in the Tropics, the authors find empirically estimated anomalous precipitation rates ranging from 1 to 3.5 mm/day, that is, from 15% to 83% of the climatological median.

Abstract

A series of earlier studies has identified regions of the world in which precipitation appears to have a consistent relationship with the Southern Oscillation (SO). In this paper, the authors attempt to quantify this relationship based on shifts in the statistical distribution of precipitation amounts with emphasis on shifts in the median, which are associated with the warm (low SO index) and cold (high SO index) phases of the SO. This paper is partially an attempt to provide long-range forecasters with some guidance in making seasonal and multiseasonal predictions. Observed SO-related shifts in the median precipitation amounts, expressed as percentiles with respect to “climatological” conditions, can he used as a simple indication of the “typical” SO response for a given region. In general, the authors find that for many of the large areas identified in previous studies, median precipitation amounts shift on the order of 20 percentile points, that is, from the median to either the 30th percentile or the 70th percentile. The authors also find considerable spatial variations in the typical patterns of SO-related precipitation percentiles in some regions.

This study also provides empirically based estimates of SO-related precipitation anomalies in terms of precipitation rates for use in numerical model studies. For selected areas in the Tropics, the authors find empirically estimated anomalous precipitation rates ranging from 1 to 3.5 mm/day, that is, from 15% to 83% of the climatological median.

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