EGU21-3756, updated on 13 Sep 2023
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Synoptic climatology of southern Indian Ocean and paleoclimate proxy interpretation

Danielle Udy1,2, Tessa Vance3, Anthony Kiem4, Neil Holbrook1,2, and Mark Curran5,3
Danielle Udy et al.
  • 1Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia (
  • 2ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  • 3Australian Antarctic Program Partnership, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  • 4Centre for Water, Climate and Land, Faculty of Science, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
  • 5Australian Antarctic Division, Kingston, Tasmania, Australia

Weather systems in the southern Indian Ocean drive synoptic-scale precipitation, temperature and wind variability in East Antarctica, sub-Antarctic islands and southern Australia.  Over seasonal to decadal timescales, the mean condition associated with combinations of these synoptic weather patterns (e.g., extratropical cyclones, fronts and regions of high pressure) is often referred to as variability in the westerly wind belt or the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). The westerly wind belt is generally considered to be zonally symmetric around Antarctica however, on a daily timescale this is not the case. To capture the daily variability of regional weather systems, we used synoptic typing (Self-Organising Maps) to group weather patterns based on similar features, which are often lost when using monthly or seasonal mean fields. We identified nine key regional weather types based on anomaly pattern and strength. These include four meridional nodes, three mixed nodes, one zonal node and one transitional node. The meridional nodes are favourable for transporting warm, moist air masses to the subantarctic and Antarctic region, and are associated with increased precipitation and temperature where the systems interact with the Antarctic coastline.  These nodes have limited association with the SAM, especially during austral spring.  In contrast, the zonal and mixed nodes were strongly correlated with the SAM however, the regional synoptic representation of SAM positive conditions is not zonally symmetric and is represented by three separate nodes.  These different types of SAM positive conditions mean that the commonly used hemispheric Marshall index often fails to capture the regional variability in surface weather conditions in the southern Indian Ocean. Our results show the importance of considering different synoptic set ups of SAM conditions, particularly SAM positive, and identify conditions that are potentially missed by SAM variability (e.g., extreme precipitation events). Our results are particularly important to consider when interpreting SAM or westerly wind belt reconstructions in the study region (from ice cores, tree rings, or lake sediments).  Here we present a case study using the synoptic typing results to enhance our understanding of the Law Dome (East Antarctica) ice core record, focussing on links to large scale modes of climate variability and Australian hydroclimate.  These results enhance the usefulness of ice core proxies in coastal East Antarctica and assist with determining where and how it is appropriate to use coastal East Antarctic ice core records for reconstructions of large scale modes of climate variability (e.g. SAM and ENSO) and remote hydroclimate conditions.

How to cite: Udy, D., Vance, T., Kiem, A., Holbrook, N., and Curran, M.: Synoptic climatology of southern Indian Ocean and paleoclimate proxy interpretation, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-3756,, 2021.


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