Trends and projections of Southern Hemisphere baroclinicity: the role of external forcing and impact on Australian rainfall

Carsten Frederiksen, Jorgen Frederiksen, Janice M. Sisson, Stacey Lee Osbrough

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Changes in the characteristics of Southern Hemisphere (SH) storms, in all seasons, during the second half of the twentieth century, have been related to changes in the annual cycle of SH baroclinic instability. In particular, significant negative trends in baroclinic instability, as measured by the Phillips Criterion, have been found in the region of the climatological storm tracks; a zonal band of significant positive trends occur further poleward. Corresponding to this decrease/increase in baroclinic instability there is a decrease/increase in the growth rate of storm formation at these latitudes over this period, and in some cases a preference for storm formation further poleward than normal. Based on model output from a multi-model ensemble (MME) of coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation models, it is shown that these trends are the result of external radiative forcing, including anthropogenic greenhouse gases, ozone, aerosols and land-use change. The MME is used in an analysis of variance method to separate the internal (natural) variability in the Phillips Criterion from influences associated with anomalous external radiative forcing. In all seasons, the leading externally forced mode has a significant trend and a loading pattern highly correlated with the pattern of trends in the Phillips Criterion. The covariance between the externally forced component of SH rainfall and the leading external mode strongly resembles the MME pattern of SH rainfall trends. A comparison between similar analyses of MME simulations using the second half of the twenty-first century of the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) RCP8.5 and RCP4.5 scenarios show that trends in the Phillips Criterion and rainfall are projected to continue and intensify under increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3261-3282
Number of pages22
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • Analysis of variance
  • Baroclinic instability
  • Climate change
  • External forcing
  • Phillips Criterion
  • Storm track
  • Trends

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