Exploring atmospheric circulation leading to three anomalous Australian spring heat events

Roseanna C. McKay, Julie M. Arblaster, Pandora Hope, Eun Pa Lim

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Australian maximum temperatures have reached record values in recent austral springs and are projected to increase further in a warming world. We focus on three record spring heat events in September 2013, October–November 2014 and October 2015, and examine the anomalous atmospheric circulation associated with these events in reanalysis and a sub-seasonal to seasonal prediction system, POAMA, to identify factors contributing to extreme heat over Australia. We find that an anomalous equivalent barotropic cyclonic circulation southwest of Australia and a quasi-stationary wave train formed by an upper-troposphere anticyclonic circulation over southern Australia and barotropic cyclone southeast of Australia are important features in these heat events, though the wave train was only observed in the latter two events. This wave train appears to be linked to the tropics, and particularly the tropical Indian Ocean, suggesting that teleconnections to the tropical Indian Ocean can be important for monthly spring extreme heat formation in Australia. However, the forecast relationship with the tropical Pacific Ocean was over-represented at the cost of the relationship between the Indian Ocean and upper-troposphere anomaly, limiting the ability of POAMA to forecast the full extent of the month- or 2 month-long heat extremes at zero lead time. This means that the model might underestimate the magnitude of future extreme heat events in spring, a factor that should be assessed in the next generation of seasonal forecast models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2181–2198
Number of pages18
JournalClimate Dynamics
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2021

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