Improving Seasonal Forecasting in the Low Latitudes

Paeth, Heiko; Girmes, Robin; Menz, Gunter; Hense, Andreas
July 2006
Monthly Weather Review;Jul2006, Vol. 134 Issue 7, p1859
Academic Journal
Seasonal forecast of climate anomalies holds the prospect of improving agricultural planning and food security, particularly in the low latitudes where rainfall represents a limiting factor in agrarian production. Present-day methods are usually based on simulated precipitation as a predictor for the forthcoming rainy season. However, climate models often have low skill in predicting rainfall due to the uncertainties in physical parameterization. Here, the authors present an extended statistical model approach using three-dimensional dynamical variables from climate model experiments like temperature, geopotential height, wind components, and atmospheric moisture. A cross-validated multiple regression analysis is applied in order to fit the model output to observed seasonal precipitation during the twentieth century. This model output statistics (MOS) system is evaluated in various regions of the globe with potential predictability and compared with the conventional superensemble approach, which refers to the same variable for predictand and predictors. It is found that predictability is highest in the low latitudes. Given the remarkable spatial teleconnections in the Tropics, a large number of dynamical predictors can be determined for each region of interest. To avoid overfitting in the regression model an EOF analysis is carried out, combining predictors that are largely in-phase with each other. In addition, a bootstrap approach is used to evaluate the predictability of the statistical model. As measured by different skill scores, the MOS system reaches much higher explained variance than the superensemble approach in all considered regions. In some cases, predictability only occurs if dynamical predictor variables are taken into account, whereas the superensemble forecast fails. The best results are found for the tropical Pacific sector, the Nordeste region, Central America, and tropical Africa, amounting to 50% to 80% of total interannual variability. In general, the statistical relationships between the leading predictors and the predictand are physically interpretable and basically highlight the interplay between regional climate anomalies and the omnipresent role of El Niño–Southern Oscillation in the tropical climate system.


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