, Volume 26, Issue 7-8, pp 751-764
Date: 16 Feb 2006

Shifts in the synoptic systems influencing southwest Western Australia

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A self-organising map is used to classify the winter circulation affecting southwest Western Australia (SWWA) into 20 different synoptic types. The changes in the frequency of these types and their links to observed rainfall are analysed to further understand the significant, prolonged, rainfall drop observed in this region since 1975. The temporal variability of the different synoptic types link well with the observed rainfall changes. The frequency of the troughs associated with wet conditions across SWWA has declined markedly since 1975 while the frequency of the synoptic types with high pressure over the continent, associated with dry conditions, has increased. Combining the frequency of the synoptic systems with the amount of observed rainfall allows a quantitative analysis of the rainfall decline. The decreased frequency of the troughs associated with very wet conditions accounts for half of the decline. Reductions in the amount of rainfall precipitating from each system also contribute to the decline. Large-scale circulation changes, including increases in the mean sea-level pressure and a decrease in the general baroclinicity of the region have been associated with the rainfall decline. These changes are suggested to be linked to increasing levels of greenhouse gases. Due to the strong link between the number of trough types and the rainfall over SWWA, the shifts in the frequency of these synoptic types could be used as a tool to assess simulated rainfall changes, particularly into the future.