Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 134, Issue 1–2, pp 121–138 | Cite as

The influence of El Niño–Southern Oscillation on boreal winter rainfall over Peninsular Malaysia

  • Sandra RichardEmail author
  • Kevin J. E. Walsh
Original Paper


Multi-scale interactions between El Niño–Southern Oscillation and the Boreal Winter Monsoon contribute to rainfall variations over Malaysia. Understanding the physical mechanisms that control these spatial variations in local rainfall is crucial for improving weather and climate prediction and related risk management. Analysis using station observations and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Interim Reanalysis (ERA-Interim) reanalysis reveals a significant decrease in rainfall during El Niño (EL) and corresponding increase during La Niña particularly north of 2°N over Peninsular Malaysia (PM). It is noted that the southern tip of PM shows a small increase in rainfall during El Niño although not significant. Analysis of the diurnal cycle of rainfall and winds indicates that there are no significant changes in morning and evening rainfall over PM that could explain the north–south disparity. Thus, we suggest that the key factor which might explain the north–south rainfall disparity is the moisture flux convergence (MFC). During the December to January (DJF) period of EL years, except for the southern tip of PM, significant negative MFC causes drying as well as suppression of uplift over most areas. In addition, lower specific humidity combined with moisture flux divergence results in less moisture over PM. Thus, over the areas north of 2°N, less rainfall (less heavy rain days) with smaller diurnal rainfall amplitude explains the negative rainfall anomaly observed during DJF of EL. The same MFC argument might explain the dipolar pattern over other areas such as Borneo if further analysis is performed.



This research was funded by the Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam Malaysia (JPA) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (ARCCSS). We are grateful to the Malaysian Meteorological Department for generously providing the hourly data for the purpose of this study. We thank the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on the manuscripts.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth SciencesThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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