Circulation Regimes and Low-Frequency Oscillations in the South Pacific Sector

Robertson, Andrew W.; Mechoso, Carlos R.

The characteristics of subseasonal circulation variability over the South Pacific are examined using 10-day lowpass-filtered 700-hPa geopotential height NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data. The extent to which the variability in each season is characterized by recurrent geographically fixed circulation regimes and/or oscillatory behavior is determined. Two methods of analysis (a K-means cluster analysis and a cross-validated Gaussian mixture model) both indicate three to four geographically fixed circulation regimes in austral fall, winter, and (to some extent) spring. The spatial regime structures are found to be quite similar in each season; they resemble the so-called Pacific–South American (PSA) patterns discussed in previous studies and often referred to as PSA 1 and PSA 2. Oscillatory behavior is investigated using singular spectrum analysis. This identifies a predominantly stationary wave with a period of about 40 days and a spatial structure similar to PSA 1; it is most pronounced in winter and spring and exhibits a noticeable eastward drift as it decays. The power spectrum of variability is otherwise well approximated by a red spectrum, together with enhanced broader-band 15–30-day variability. The results presented herein indicate that low-frequency variability over the South Pacific is not dominated by a propagating wave whose quadrature phases are PSA 1 and PSA 2, as hitherto described. Rather, it is found that the variability is well described by the occurrence of three to four geographically fixed circulation regimes, with a (near) 40-day oscillation that is predominantly stationary in space. The potential subseasonal predictability implied by this duality is discussed. Only during austral spring is a strong correlation found between El Niño and the frequency of occurrence of the circulation regimes.

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Monthly Weather Review

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Academic Units
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
American Meteorological Society
Published Here
August 14, 2012