Extreme rainfall variability in Australia: Patterns, drivers and predictability
King, A. D., Klingaman, N. P., Alexander, L. V., Donat, M. G., Jourdain, N. C. and Maher, P. (2014) Extreme rainfall variability in Australia: Patterns, drivers and predictability. Journal of Climate, 27 (15). pp. 6035-6050. ISSN 1520-0442
To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00715.1
Leading patterns of observed monthly extreme rainfall variability in Australia are examined using an Empirical Orthogonal Teleconnection (EOT) method. Extreme rainfall variability is more closely related to mean rainfall variability during austral summer than in winter. The leading EOT patterns of extreme rainfall explain less variance in Australia-wide extreme rainfall than is the case for mean rainfall EOTs. We illustrate that, as with mean rainfall, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has the strongest association with warm-season extreme rainfall variability, while in the cool-season the primary drivers are atmospheric blocking and the subtropical ridge. The Indian Ocean Dipole and Southern Annular Mode also have significant relationships with patterns of variability during austral winter and spring. Leading patterns of summer extreme rainfall variability have predictability several months ahead from Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and as much as a year in advance from Indian Ocean SSTs. Predictability from the Pacific is greater for wetter than average summer months than for months that are drier than average, whereas for the Indian Ocean the relationship has greater linearity. Several cool-season EOTs are associated with mid-latitude synoptic-scale patterns along the south and east coasts. These patterns have common atmospheric signatures denoting moist onshore flow and strong cyclonic anomalies often to the north of a blocking anti-cyclone. Tropical cyclone activity is observed to have significant relationships with some warm season EOTs. This analysis shows that extreme rainfall variability in Australia can be related to remote drivers and local synoptic-scale patterns throughout the year.