Abstract 265

Abstract ID: 265

Multiweek prediction and attribution of the Black Saturday heatwave event over southeast Australia

Lead Author: S. Abhik
School of Earth, Atmosphere, and Environment, Monash University, Australia, Australia


Abstract: Southeastern Australia experienced an extreme heatwave event from 27 January – 8 February 2009, which culminated in the devastating ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires that led to hundreds of human casualties and major economic losses in the state of Victoria. This study investigates the causes of the heatwave event, its prediction, and the role of anthropogenic climate change using a dynamical sub-seasonal-to-seasonal (S2S) forecast system. We show that the intense positive temperature anomalies over southeastern Australia were associated with the persistent high-pressure system over the Tasman Sea and a low-pressure anomaly over southern Australia, which favored horizontal warm air advection from the lower latitudes to the region. Enhanced convection over the tropical western Pacific and northern Australia due to weak La Niña conditions appear to have played a role in strengthening the high-pressure anomalies over the Tasman Sea. The observed climate conditions are largely reproduced in the hindcast of the Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator – Seasonal prediction system version 1 (ACCESS-S1). The model skillfully predicts the spatial characteristics and relative intensity of the heatwave event at a 10-day lead time. A climate attribution forecast experiment with low atmospheric CO2 and counterfactual cold ocean-atmospheric initial conditions suggests that the enhanced greenhouse effect contributed to about 3°C warming of the predicted event. This study provides an example of how an S2S prediction system can not only be used for multiweek prediction of an extreme event and its climate drivers but also the attribution to anthropogenic climate change.

Eun-Pa Lim, Pandora Hope, and David Jones