The association of tropical and extratropical climate modes to atmospheric blocking across southeastern Australia

Tim Cowan, Peter Van Rensch, Ariaan Purich, Wenju Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Relationships of the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD), El Nĩno-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and the southern annular mode (SAM) with atmospheric blocking are investigated using a linear framework over the austral autumn-spring (cool) seasons for southeast Australia (SEA). Positive blocking events occurring at 1308- 1408E increase the likelihood of cutoff low pressure systems developing that generate significant rainfall totals across SEA. In mid to late austral autumn (April-May), blocking is coherent with negative IOD events. During this season, a negative IOD event and blocking are associated with warm sea surface temperature anomalies in the eastern tropical Indian Ocean and a blocking high pressure cell south of Australia. An anomalous cyclonic pressure center over southern Australia directs tropical moisture flux anomalies to the region. Despite this, only a small portion of a negative IOD's impact on SEA rainfall comes through blocking events. During austral winter, ENSO is coherent with blocking; anomalous tropical moisture fluxes from the western Pacific during a La Nĩna merge with anomalous cyclonic flows centered over SEA, delivering enhanced rainfall via cutoff lows. The low pressure cell constitutes a center of the Southern Oscillation associated with ENSO. This ENSO-blocking coherence is considerably weaker in austral spring, whereby circulation anomalies associated with blocking resemble a SAM-like pattern. As such, a large portion of the SAM's impact on SEA spring rainfall occurs in conjunction with blocking events. The relative importance of associations between the dominant climate modes and blocking in generating the drought-breaking cool season precipitation in 2010 across SEA is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7555-7569
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Annular mode
  • Atmospheric circulation
  • Blocking
  • Cool season
  • La Nina
  • Precipitation

Cite this