Regional variation in the wet season of northern Australia

Michael Murphy, Steven Siems, Michael Manton

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Variability in the wet season of tropical northern Australia is examined over its main months, November-March, with a focus on zonal differences between the western, central, and eastern domains, which encompass the northern parts of Western Australia, Northern Territory, and Queensland, respectively. The seasonal progression of the wet season is similar across the region, with steadily increasing atmospheric moisture and rainfall into the core months of the monsoon, January and February, decreasing into March. This seasonal progression differs in the eastern domain, where there is an extension of premonsoonal conditions into December, and a delay of the onset of the monsoon until January. An analysis of TRMM precipitation features (PFs) reveals more intense convection during the premonsoon, steadily decreasing in intensity to much shallower convection by March, with a steady increase in the overall number of PFs throughout the wet season. Regionally, the intensity of PFs steadily decreases eastward across northern Australia with significantly weaker, shallower PFs over the eastern domain. Intraseasonal variability associated with the Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO) has a consistent impact on the rainfall and the total number of TRMM PFs across northern Australia, with both increasing and decreasing during the active and suppressed phases, respectively. However, regional variations in the effect of the MJO lead to radically different characteristics of PFs during the suppressed phases; intense convection and thunderstorms become more frequent over the western and central domains, while shallow PFs associated with the warm rain precipitation process increase in number over the eastern domain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4941-4962
Number of pages22
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Clouds
  • Intraseasonal variability
  • Monsoons
  • Satellite observations
  • Seasonal cycle
  • Tropical variability

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