Climate Dynamics

, Volume 53, Issue 12, pp 7185–7199 | Cite as

Impacts of the Pacific meridional mode on rainfall over the maritime continent and australia: potential for seasonal predictions

  • Wei ZhangEmail author
  • Gabriele Villarini
  • Gabriel A. Vecchi


This study assesses whether, the extent to which and why the Pacific Meridional Mode (PMM) modulates rainfall in Australia and the Maritime Continent. We find a statistically significant time-lagged association between March-to-May (MAM) PMM and September-to-November (SON) rainfall in the Maritime Continent and Australia. The association is largely caused by the contribution of PMM to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Positive (negative) MAM PMM is generally followed by El Niño (La Niña) events in the following SON and December-to-February (DJF), which then suppresses (enhances) rainfall in the Maritime Continent and Australia. The suppression (enhancement) of rainfall is closely tied to the dynamical changes of moisture flux using moisture flux potential and its divergent components. Following the positive (negative) PMM phases, there is a strong moisture flux potential sink (source) in SON over the Maritime Continent and Australia, which act to suppress (enhance) rainfall there. Using MAM PMM as a predictor for SON rainfall in the Maritime Continent and Australia, the prediction skill is comparable to the North American Multimodel Ensemble project (NMME) forecasts initialized in June over the period 1981–2014. This suggests that MAM PMM may be used as a predictor for SON rainfall in the Maritime Continent and Australia.



The authors are grateful to four anonymous reviewers for insightful comments. The authors thank the NMME program partners and acknowledge the help of NCEP, IRI and NCAR personnel in creating, updating and maintaining the NMME archive, with the support of NOAA, NSF, NASA and DOE. This study was partly supported by NOAA’s Climate Program Office’s Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections Program, Grant #NA15OAR4310073, and Award NA14OAR4830101 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce.


  1. Allan RJ (1988) El Niño southern oscillation influences in the Australasian region. Prog Phys Geogr 12:313–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ashok K, Guan Z, Yamagata T, 2003: Influence of the Indian Ocean dipole on the Australian winter rainfall. Geophys Res Lett 30Google Scholar
  3. Ashok K, Behera SK, Rao SA, Weng H, Yamagata T (2007) El Niño Modoki and its possible teleconnection. J Geophys Res Oceans 112:C11007CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beck HE, van Dijk AIJM, Levizzani J, Schellekens DG, Miralles B, Martens, de Roo A (2017) MSWEP: 3-hourly 0.25° global gridded precipitation (1979–2015) by merging gauge, satellite, and reanalysis data. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 21:589–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown JN, McIntosh PC, Pook MJ, Risbey JS (2009) An investigation of the links between ENSO flavors and rainfall processes in southeastern Australia. Mon Weather Rev 137:3786–3795CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cai W, Cowan T (2009) La Niña Modoki impacts Australia autumn rainfall variability. Geophys Res Lett 36:L12805CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cai W, Cowan T, Sullivan A (2009) Recent unprecedented skewness towards positive Indian Ocean Dipole occurrences and its impact on Australian rainfall. Geophys Res Lett 36:L11705CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cai W, Van Rensch P, Cowan T, Hendon HH (2011) Teleconnection pathways of ENSO and the IOD and the mechanisms for impacts on Australian rainfall. J Clim 24:3910–3923CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chang P, Ji L, Li H (1997) A decadal climate variation in the tropical Atlantic Ocean from thermodynamic air–sea interactions. Nature 385:516–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chang C-P, Wang Z, Ju J, Li T (2004) On the relationship between western maritime continent monsoon rainfall and ENSO during Northern Winter. J Clim 17:665–672CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chang P et al (2007) Pacific meridional mode and El Niño–Southern Oscillation. Geophys Res Lett 34:L16608CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chen T-C (1985) Global water vapor flux and maintenance during FGGE. Mon Weather Rev 113:1801–1819CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chen TC (2002) A North Pacific short-wave train during the extreme phases of ENSO. J Clim 15:2359–2376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chiang JCH., Vimont DJ (2004) Analogous Pacific and Atlantic meridional modes of tropical atmosphere–ocean variability. J Clim 17:4143–4158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chiew FH, Piechota TC, Dracup JA, McMahon TA (1998) El Nino/Southern Oscillation and Australian rainfall, streamflow and drought: links and potential for forecasting. J Hydrol 204:138–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Collins JM, Klotzbach PJ, Maue RN, Roache DR, Blake ES, Paxton CH, Mehta CA (2016) The record-breaking 2015 hurricane season in the eastern North Pacific: an analysis of environmental conditions. Geophys Res Lett 43:9217–9224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Delworth TL, and Coauthors (2012) Simulated climate and climate change in the GFDL CM2.5 high-resolution coupled climate model. J Clim 25:2755–2781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Delworth TL et al (2006) GFDL’s CM2 global coupled climate models. Part I: formulation and simulation characteristics. J Clim 19:643–674CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Deser C, Wallace JM (1987) El Niño events and their relation to the Southern Oscillation: 1925–1986. J Geophys Res Oceans 92:14189–14196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Du Y, Cai W, Wu Y (2013) A new type of the Indian Ocean dipole since the mid-1970s. J Clim 26:959–972CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. England MH, Ummenhofer CC, Santoso A (2006) Interannual rainfall extremes over southwest Western Australia linked to Indian Ocean climate variability. J Clim 19:1948–1969CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Feng J, Wang L, Chen W, Fong SK, Leong KC (2010) Different impacts of two types of Pacific Ocean warming onSoutheast Asian rainfall during boreal winter. J Geophys Res Atmos 115Google Scholar
  23. Hamada J-I et al (2012) Interannual rainfall variability over northwestern Jawa and its relation to the Indian Ocean dipole and El Niño–Southern Oscillation events. Sola 8:69–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hashino T, Bradley AA, Schwartz SS (2007) Evaluation of bias-correction methods for ensemble streamflow volume forecasts. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 11(2):939–950. doi: 10.5194/hess-11-939-2007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hendon HH (2003) Indonesian rainfall variability: impacts of ENSO and local air–sea interaction. J Clim 16:1775–1790CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Juneng L, Tangang FT, Kang H, Lee W-J, Seng YK (2010) Statistical downscaling forecasts for winter monsoon precipitation in Malaysia using multimodel output variables. J Clim 23:17–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kalnay E et al (1996) The NCEP/NCAR 40-year reanalysis project. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 77:437–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kim ST, Yu J-Y, Kumar A, Wang H (2012) Examination of the two types of ENSO in the NCEP CFS model and its extratropical associations. Mon Weather Rev 140:1908–1923CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kirono DG, Chiew FH, Kent DM (2010) Identification of best predictors for forecasting seasonal rainfall and runoff in Australia. Hydrol Process 24:1237–1247Google Scholar
  30. Kirtman BP et al (2014) The North American multimodel ensemble: phase-1 seasonal-to-interannual prediction;phase-2 toward developing intraseasonal prediction. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 95:585–601CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Langford S, Hendon HH (2013) Improving reliability of coupled model forecasts of Australian seasonal rainfall. Mon Weather Rev 141:728–741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Larson SM, Kirtman BP (2014) The Pacific meridional mode as an ENSO precursor and predictor in the North American multimodel ensemble. J Clim 27:7018–7032CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Li C, Wu L, Chang P (2011) A far-reaching footprint of the tropical Pacific meridional mode on the summer rainfall over the Yellow River loop valley. J Clim 24:2585–2598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lim E-P, Hendon HH, Hudson D, Wang G, Alves O (2009a) Dynamical forecast of inter–El Niño variations of tropical SST and Australian spring rainfall. Mon Weather Rev 137:3796–3810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lim E-P, Hendon HH, Hudson D, Wang G, Alves O (2009b) Dynamical forecast of inter-El Nino variations of tropical SST and Australian spring rainfall. Mon Weather Rev 137:3796–3810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lim E-P, Hendon HH, Anderson DL, Charles A, Alves O (2011) Dynamical, statistical–dynamical, and multimodel ensemble forecasts of Australian spring season rainfall. Mon Weather Rev 139:958–975CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lin C-Y, Yu J-Y, Hsu H-H (2015) CMIP5 model simulations of the Pacific meridional mode and its connection to the two types of ENSO. Int J Climatol 35:2352–2358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Marshall AG, Hendon HH (2015) Subseasonal prediction of Australian summer monsoon anomalies. Geophys Res Lett 42:10913–10919CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mason SJ, Baddour O (2008) Statistical modelling. Seasonal climate: forecasting and managing risk, vol 82. Springer, Berlin, pp 163–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McBride JL, Ebert EE (2000) Verification of quantitative precipitation forecasts from operational numerical weather prediction models over Australia. Weather Forecast 15:103–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McBride JL, Nicholls N (1983) Seasonal relationships between Australian rainfall and the Southern Oscillation. Mon Weather Rev 111:1998–2004CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Meyers G, McIntosh P, Pigot L, Pook M (2007) The years of El Niño, La Niña, and interactions with the tropical Indian Ocean. J Clim 20:2872–2880CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Murakami H et al (2016) Dominant role of subtropical Pacific warming in extreme eastern Pacific hurricane seasons: 2015 and thefuture. J Clim (in press) Google Scholar
  44. Nicholls N (1989) Sea surface temperatures and Australian winter rainfall. J Clim 2:965–973CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nicholls N, Drosdowsky W, Lavery B (1997) Australian rainfall variability and change. Weather 52:66–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pegion K, Alexander M (2013) The seasonal footprinting mechanism in CFSv2: simulation and impact on ENSO prediction. Clim Dyn 41:1671–1683CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ramage CS (1968) Role of a tropical “Maritime continent” in the atmospheric circulation. Mon Weather Rev 96:365–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rauniyar SP, Walsh KJ (2011) Scale interaction of the diurnal cycle of rainfall over the Maritime Continent and Australia: influence of the MJO. J Clim 24:325–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rauniyar SP, Walsh KJ (2013) Influence of ENSO on the diurnal cycle of rainfall over the Maritime Continent and Australia. J Clim 26:1304–1321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rayner N et al (2003) Global analyses of sea surface temperature, sea ice, and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century. J Geophys Res 108:4407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Risbey JS, Pook MJ, McIntosh PC, Wheeler MC, Hendon HH (2009) On the remote drivers of rainfall variability in Australia. Mon Weather Rev 137:3233–3253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ropelewski CF, Halpert MS (1987) Global and regional scale precipitation patterns associated with the El Niño/Southern Oscillation. Mon Weather Rev 115:1606–1626CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rosen RD, Salstein DA, Peixoto J (1979) Streamfunction analysis of interannual variability in large-scale water vapor flux. Mon Weather Rev 107:1682–1684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Saji N, Yamagata T (2003) Possible impacts of Indian Ocean dipole mode events on global climate. Clim Res 25:151–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Saji N, Goswami B, Vinayachandran P, Yamagata T (1999) A dipole mode in the tropical Indian Ocean. Nature 401:360–363Google Scholar
  56. Schepen A, Wang Q, Robertson D (2012a) Evidence for using lagged climate indices to forecast Australian seasonal rainfall. J Clim 25:1230–1246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schepen A, Wang Q, Robertson DE (2012b) Combining the strengths of statistical and dynamical modeling approaches for forecasting Australian seasonal rainfall. J Geophys Res Atmos 117Google Scholar
  58. Schepen A, Wang Q, Robertson DE (2014) Seasonal forecasts of Australian rainfall through calibration and bridging of coupled GCM outputs. Mon Weather Rev 142:1758–1770CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Song L, Chen S, Chen W, Chen X (2016) Distinct impacts of two types of La Niña events on Australian summer rainfall. Int J Climatol. doi: 10.1002/joc.4863(press) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Taschetto AS, England MH (2009) El Niño Modoki impacts on Australian rainfall. J Clim 22:3167–3174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Taschetto A, Haarsma R, Gupta AS, Ummenhofer C, England M (2010a) Teleconnections associated with the intensification of the Australian monsoon duringEl Niño Modoki events. Earth and Environmental Science, IOP Publishing, IOP Conference Series, p 012031CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Taschetto AS, Haarsma RJ, Gupta AS, Ummenhofer CC, Hill KJ, England MH (2010b) Australian monsoon variability driven by a Gill–Matsuno-type response to central west Pacific warming. J Clim 23:4717–4736CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Vecchi GA, Harrison DE (2000) Tropical Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies, El Niño, and equatorial westerly wind events. J Clim 13:1814–1830CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Vecchi GA et al (2014) On the seasonal forecasting of regional tropical cyclone activity. J Clim 27:7994–8016CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Verdon DC, Franks SW (2005) Indian Ocean sea surface temperature variability and winter rainfall: Eastern Australia. Water ResourRes:41Google Scholar
  66. Wang SY, Clark AJ (2010) Quasi-decadal spectral peaks of tropical western Pacific SSTs as a precursor for tropical cyclone threat. Geophys Res Lett 37Google Scholar
  67. Wang G, Hendon HH (2007) Sensitivity of Australian rainfall to inter-El Nino variations. J Clim 20:4211–4226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wang B, Yang J, Zhou T, Wang B (2008a) Interdecadal changes in the major modes of Asian–Australian monsoon variability: strengthening relationship with ENSO since the late 1970s. J Clim 21:1771–1789CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wang B et al (2008b) How accurately do coupled climate models predict the leading modes of Asian–Australian monsoon interannual variability? Clim Dyn 30:605–619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wang S-Y, Gillies RR, Jin J, Hipps LE (2010) Coherence between the Great Salt Lake level and the Pacific quasi-decadal oscillation. J Clim 23:2161–2177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wang S-Y, Gillies RR, Hipps LE, Jin J (2011) A transition-phase teleconnection of the Pacific quasi-decadal oscillation. Clim Dyn 36:681–693CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wheeler MC, Hendon HH, Cleland S, Meinke H, Donald A (2009) Impacts of the Madden–Julian oscillation on Australian rainfall and circulation. J Clim 22:1482–1498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Xie S-P, Philander SGH (1994) A coupled ocean–atmosphere model of relevance to the ITCZ in the eastern Pacific. Tellus A 46Google Scholar
  74. Yeh S-W, Kug J-S, Dewitte B, Kwon M-H, Kirtman BP, Jin F-F (2009) El Nino in a changing climate. Nature 461:511–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Yu J-Y, Kim ST (2011) Relationships between extratropical sea level pressure variations and the Central Pacific and Eastern Pacific types of ENSO. J Clim 24:708–720CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Yu J-Y, Kao P-K, Paek H, Hsu H-H, Hung C.-w., Lu M-M, An S-I (2014) Linking emergence of the Central Pacific El Niño to the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation. J Clim 28:651–662CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Zhang L, Chang P, Ji L (2009) Linking the Pacific meridional mode to ENSO: coupled model analysis. J Clim 22:3488–3505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Zhang W, Vecchi GA, Murakami H, Villarini G, Jia L (2016) The Pacific meridional mode and the occurrence of tropical cyclones in the Western North Pacific. J Clim 29:381–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Zhang W, Vecchi GA, Villarini G, Murakami H, Gudgel R, Yang X (2017a) Statistical–Dynamical seasonal forecast of Western North Pacific and East Asia landfalling tropical cyclones using the GFDL FLOR coupled climate model. J Clim 30:2209–2232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Zhang W, Villarini G, Vecchi GA, Murakami H (2017b) Impacts of the Pacific meridional mode on landfalling North Atlantic tropical cyclones. Clim Dyn. doi: 10.1007/s00382-017-3656-3(press) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Zhang W, Villarini G, Vecchi GA (2017c) Impacts of the Pacific meridional mode on June–August precipitation in the Amazon River Basin. Q J R Meteorol Soc 143:1936–1945CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IIHR-Hydroscience and EngineeringThe University of IowaIowaUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  3. 3.Princeton Environmental InstitutePrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

Personalised recommendations