Causes and predictability of the record wet east Australian spring 2010

Abstract

In 2010 eastern Australia received its highest springtime (September–November) rainfall since 1900. Based on historical relationships with sea surface temperatures (SST) and other climate indices, this record rainfall in 2010 was shown to be largely commensurate with the occurrence of a very strong La Niña event and an extreme positive excursion of the SAM. The pattern and magnitude of the tropical SST anomalies in austral spring 2010 were diagnosed to be nearly perfect to produce high rainfall across eastern Australia. Key aspects of this SST pattern were the strong cold anomaly in the central equatorial Pacific, and the strong warm anomalies in the eastern Indian Ocean and the far western Pacific to the north of Australia. Although the recent upward trend in SSTs in the western Pacific/eastern Indian Ocean warm pool accounted for about 50 % of the SST anomaly surrounding northern Australia in 2010, the contribution by the warming trend in these SSTs to the Australian rainfall anomaly in 2010 was assessed to be relatively modest. The strong positive swing in SAM was estimated to have accounted for upwards of 40 % of the regional anomaly along the central east coastal region and about 10 % of the area mean anomaly across eastern Australia. This contribution by the SAM suggests that a significant portion of the rainfall in 2010 may not have been seasonally predictable. However, predictability arising from the promotion of high SAM by the extreme La Nina event can not be ruled out.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Assorted time series of Australian rainfall back to 1900 are available from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology web pages: http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/change/timeseries.cgi?graph=rranom&area=aus&season=0112&ave_yr=0.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported in part by the South Eastern Australian Climate Initiative (SEACI; http://www.seaci.org.au) and the Managing Climate Variability Program (http://www.managingclimate.gov.au/). Comments by N. Nicholls, B. Timbal, J. J. Luo, G. Wang, and an anonymous reviewer on earlier versions of the manuscript are acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Harry H. Hendon.

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Hendon, H.H., Lim, EP., Arblaster, J.M. et al. Causes and predictability of the record wet east Australian spring 2010. Clim Dyn 42, 1155–1174 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-013-1700-5

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Keywords

  • La Niña 2010
  • Australian floods 2010
  • Southern Annular Mode