Zonal winds and southeast Australian rainfall in climate models.

Pepler, A., L. Alexander and J.P. Evans Climate Dynamics, doi: 10.1007/s00382-015-2573-6, 2016.


Southeast Australia is a region of high rainfall variability related to major climate drivers, with a long-term declining trend in cool-season rainfall. Projections of future rainfall trends are uncertain in this region, despite projected southward shifts in the subtropical ridge and mid-latitude westerlies. This appears to be related to a poor representation of the spatial relationships between rainfall variability and zonal wind patterns across southeast Australia in the latest Coupled Model Intercomparison Project ensemble, particularly in the areas where weather systems embedded in the mid-latitude westerlies are the main source of cool-season rainfall. Downscaling with regional climate models offers improvements in the mean rainfall climatology, and shows some ability to correct for poor modelled relationships between rainfall and zonal winds along the east coast of Australia. However, it provides only minor improvements to these relationships in southeast Australia, despite the improved representation of topographic features. These results suggest that both global and regional climate models may fail to translate projected circulation changes into their likely rainfall impacts in southeast Australia.

Key Figure

Fig. 8: Median of the correlations between zonal wind and rainfall across the four CMIP3 models during 1950–2005 (left) and the twelve regionally-downscaled realisations (1990–2009) (right), with black dots indicating where correlations are statistically significant at the 95 % level

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