Seasonal Prediction of Boreal Winter Rainfall over the Western Maritime Continent during ENSO


  • Since the beginning of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Climate Outlook Forum (ASEANCOF) in 2013, the most difficult challenge has been the rainfall forecast in boreal winter. This is the Maritime Continent monsoon season during which rainfall reaches maximum in the annual cycle. This forecast difficulty arises in spite of the general notion that seasonal predictability of the Maritime Continent rainfall may be higher than most places because of the strong and robust influences of ENSO. The lower predictability is consistent with the lower correlation between ENSO and western Maritime Continent rainfall that reaches minimum during the boreal winter monsoon. Various theories have been proposed to explain this low correlation. In this paper, we review the research on ENSO–Maritime Continent rainfall relationship and show that the main cause of the forecast difficulty is the wind–terrain interaction involving the Sumatran and Malay Peninsula mountains, rather than the effect of sea surface temperature (SST). The wind–terrain interaction due to the low-level regional scale anomalous horizontal circulation offsets the anomalous Walker circulation during both El Niño and La Niña. The net result of these two opposing responses to ENSO is a lower local predictability. We propose to call this low-predictability region the WIMP (Western Indonesia–Malay Peninsula) region both for its geographical location and its special characteristic of causing difficulties for forecasters to make a confident forecast for the boreal winter. Our result suggests that climate models lack skills in forecasting rainfall in this region because their predictability depends strongly on SST.
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