Climate Dynamics

, Volume 37, Issue 11, pp 2335–2354

Climatic background of cold and wet winter in southern China: part I observational analysis


DOI: 10.1007/s00382-011-1022-4

Cite this article as:
Zhang, H., Qin, J. & Li, Y. Clim Dyn (2011) 37: 2335. doi:10.1007/s00382-011-1022-4


This study explores the climate background of anomalous wet and cold winter in southern China, focusing on results in January when most of its disastrous snowstorms and freezing rainfall events were observed. Based on the ERA-40 reanalysis and Climate Research Unit (CRU) observed precipitation and surface temperature monthly data for the period of 1959–2001, the difference between normalised monthly precipitation and temperature is used to define a simple index which reflects the intensity of the wet and cold condition in the region. It offers a good agreement with an index defined by daily weather station data observed in the region. Then, through simple correlation analyses we focus on exploring the dominant physical and dynamical processes leading to such climatic anomalies. While we acknowledge the contribution of the cold/dry air penetrated from the north, the importance of maintaining a warm and moist airflow from the south is highlighted, including an enhanced Middle East Jet Stream (MEJS) and southwesterly flow over Indochina Peninsula and South China Sea region. Strong vertical share of meridional wind, with enhanced northerly flow near the surface and southerly flow in the low to middle troposphere, leads to significant temperature and moisture inversions. These are consistent with results from synoptic analyses of the severe January 2008 event which was not included in the correlation calculations and thus suggest the 2008 event was not an unusual event although it was very intense. In the third part, we use a partial least-square statistical method to uncover dominant SST patterns corresponding to such climatic conditions. By comparing results for the periods of 1949–1978 and 1978–2007, we demonstrate the shift of dominant SST patterns responsible for the wet and cold anomalies. Shifting from “conventional” ENSO SST patterns to ENSO Modoki-like conditions in recent decades partially explains the unstable relationship between ENSO and Asian winter monsoon. Meanwhile, the importance of SST conditions in extra-tropic Pacific and Indian oceans is acknowledged. Finally, we developed a forecasting model which uses SST condition in October to predict the occurrence of the anomalous wet and cold January in the region and reasonable forecasting skill is obtained.


Wet and coldCirculation patternSouthern China

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Australian Weather and Climate ResearchMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.China University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  3. 3.CSIRO Mathematics, Informatics and StatisticsPerthAustralia