Seasonal climate influences on the timing of the Australian monsoon onset

Lisonbee, Joel; Ribbe, Joachim

The timing of the first monsoon burst of the season, or the monsoon onset, can be a critical piece of information for agriculture, fire management, water management, and emergency response in monsoon regions. Why do some monsoon seasons start earlier or later than others? Previous research has investigated the impact of climate influences such as the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on monsoon variability, but most studies have considered only the impact on rainfall and not the timing of the onset. While this question could be applied to any monsoon system, this research presented in this paper has focused on the Australian monsoon. Even with the wealth of research available on the variability of the Australian monsoon season, the timing of the monsoon onset is one aspect of seasonal variability that still lacks skilful seasonal prediction. To help us better understand the influence of large-scale climate drivers on monsoon onset timing, we recreated 11 previously published Australian monsoon onset datasets and extended these to all cover the same period from the 1950/1951 through the 2020/2021 Australian wet seasons. The extended datasets were then tested for correlations with several standard climate indices to identify which climate drivers could be used as predictors for monsoon onset timing. The results show that many of the relationships between monsoon onset dates and ENSO that were previously published are not as strong when considering the extended datasets. Only a strong La Niña pattern usually has an impact on monsoon onset timing, while ENSO-neutral and El Niño patterns lacked a similar relationship. Detrended Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) data showed a weak relationship with monsoon onset dates, but when the trend in the IOD data is retained, the relationship with onset dates diminishes. Other patterns of climate variability showed little relationship with Australian monsoon onset dates. Since ENSO is a tropical climate process with global impacts, it is prudent to further re-examine its influences in other monsoon regions too, with the aim to evaluate and improve previously established prediction methodologies.



Lisonbee, Joel / Ribbe, Joachim: Seasonal climate influences on the timing of the Australian monsoon onset. 2021. Copernicus Publications.


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