On the distribution of heat waves over the Australian region

Lee Tryhorn, James Risbey

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34 Citations (Scopus)


This study defines a set of five indices related to different features of heat waves. The indices relate to the intensity, duration, diurnal characteristics, and frequency of heat waves. The indices are first assessed using high quality station data at ten different locations across Australia. A comparison is made between the station data results and gridded data at nearby locations from the NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis in order to examine the utility of the reanalysis data. The reanalysis data generally correlate well with the station data on a year-to-year basis, but are found to be less reliable when it comes to determining trends. The climatologies of the heat wave indices reveal different features of the synoptic climatology of the Australian region. They also reveal that heat waves are more numerous, but of shorter duration along the southern coast. Climate model simulations using the CGCM2 successfully reproduce the general features of the patterns of the reanalysis heat wave climatologies, except for those indices related to heat wave duration. Trend in heat wave indices in the model ensemble average yield increases across Australia in recent decades. By the end of the next century the features of heat waves that increase most in the model under greenhouse forcing are those relating to duration and overnight temperature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169 - 182
Number of pages14
JournalAustralian Meteorological Magazine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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