IRI Home

Climate Outlook

EUROPE August 2002 - January 2003

Issued: July 2002

The IRI has prepared this experimental Climate Outlook for Europe for August 2002 - January 2003. Of relevance in the preparation of this outlook is the prediction of warmer than average conditions in the equatorial Pacific for the next 6 to 9 months. Currently the sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across much of the eastern and central equatorial Pacific are more than 0.5 degrees C warmer than their long-term average (SSTs), particularly in the central part of the basin. Weakly warm equatorial Pacific SST conditions (near or slightly higher than 0.5 C) are in effect for the first seasons of the forecast, August-October 2002, September-November 2002. The central equatorial Pacific, near the dateline, is currently observed to be warmer (SSTs over 1 degree C above normal) than these predictions, and this discrepancy has been considered in developing the climate forecasts. The predictions maintain weak El Nino conditions (SSTs between 0.5 and 1 degree C above normal) throughout the forecast period, increasing slightly in the last season November-January 2003. Note that this prediction for a weak El Nino is a prediction given by a particular ENSO prediction model. It is described here because it served as the boundary forcing for the following climate forecast, which is primarily based on dynamical global climate models. This should not be confused with the IRI's ENSO Statement September-November 2002, which while indicating an high likelihood for an El Nino to continue through 2002, also highlights the uncertainty present in the prediction, including the predicted strength of the possible El Nino. In the other tropical oceans, warmer than average SSTs continue to dominate much of the Indian Ocean, and are not expected to decrease as rapidly as suggested by the SST predictions. However, the actual long-term evolution of the Indian Ocean SSTs is difficult to foresee at this time. The area of above-average temperature in the tropical south Atlantic Ocean (near the coast of Africa) is expected to persist through at least the first half of the forecast period.


This Outlook was prepared using the following procedures and information:

A) Coupled ocean-atmosphere model predictions of tropical Pacific SST covering the forecast period. Particularly heavy weighting has been given to predictions from the coupled model operated by the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction, Climate Modeling Branch. This model suggests a continuation of near-average conditions during the first forecast season. The forecast for near-neutral conditions is consistent with some, but not all, numerical and statistical forecasts of central and eastern Pacific SSTs.

B) Forecasts of the tropical Indian ocean using a statistical model developed by the IRI.

C) Global atmospheric general circulation model (GCM) predictions of the atmospheric response to the present and predicted sea-surface temperature patterns.

D) Other sources of information include NASA's Seasonal to Interannual Prediction Project (GSFC-NASA) and also seasonal prediction research at COLA.

The procedures, models, and data used to derive this Climate Outlook may be somewhat different from those used by the national meteorological services in the region. Thus, this product may differ from the official forecasts issued in those areas. The Climate Outlook for August 2002 - January 2003 is dependent on the accuracy of the SST predictions. For the tropical Pacific, these predictions can be expected to provide useful information, but there is some uncertainty concerning the evolution of SSTs. Spread in global SST predictions is a source of uncertainty in the Outlook provided here. Note that even if perfectly accurate SST forecasts were possible, there would still be uncertainty in the climate forecast due to chaotic internal variability of the atmosphere. These uncertainties are reflected in the probabilities given in the forecast.

It is stressed that the current status of seasonal-to-interannual climate forecasting allows prediction of spatial and temporal averages, and does not fully account for all factors that influence regional and national climate variability. This Outlook is relevant only to seasonal time scales and relatively large areas; local variations should be expected, and variations within the 3-month season should also be expected. For further information concerning this and other guidance products, users are strongly advised to contact their National Meteorological Services.


This Outlook covers four seasons: August-Octover 2002, September-November 2002, October-December 2002 and November-January 2003. Maps are given showing tercile probabilities of precipitation and temperature. The maps for precipitation indicate the probabilities that the seasonal precipitation will fall into the wettest third of the years (top number), the middle third of the years (middle number), or the driest third of the years (bottom number). The color shading indicates the probability of the most dominant tercile -- that is, the tercile having the highest forecast probability. The color bar alongside the map defines these dominant tercile probability levels. The upper side of the color bar shows the colors used for increasingly strong probabilities when the dominant tercile is the above-normal tercile, while the lower side shows likewise for the below-normal tercile. The gray color indicates an enhanced probability for the near-normal tercile (nearly always limited to 40%). As before, numbers and their associated histograms show the probabilities of the three terciles. In areas with lots of spatial detail, there may not be sufficient room on the map, to allow histograms for each region. In those cases, some idea of the probabilities may be gained from the color alone. A qualitative outlook of climatology ("C") indicates that there is no basis for favoring any particular category. Areas that are marked by "D" represent regions for which less than 3cm of precipitation typically occurs over the season. Otherwise, for example, in the case of all of Europe in August-Octover 2002 (Map A), there is a 33.3% probability that the precipitation will be in the wettest third of the years, a 33.3% chance it will be in the near-normal third of the years, and a 33.3% chance that the precipitation will be in the driest third of the years.

Maps of temperature show expected probabilities that the seasonal temperatures will fall into the warmest third of the years, the middle third of the years, or the coldest third of the years (Map A) . The numbers for each region on the temperature maps indicate the probabilities of temperatures to fall in each of the three categories, above-, near-, and below-normal.

An additional precipitation map is provided for the first season indicating probabilities for extreme precipitation anomalies. Extremes are defined as anomalies that fall within the top and bottom 15th percentile of the observed records. A priori, there is a 15% probability of being within the extremely wet category, and a 15% probability of being within the extremely dry category, leaving a 70% probability that the precipitation will not be extreme. The maps indicate areas of increased risk of extreme precipitation totals. Three levels of increased risk are defined: slightly enhanced risk, enhanced risk, and greatly enhanced risk. For slightly enhanced risk, there is a 25-40% probability that precipitation will be within the indicated extreme, i.e. wet or dry. This represents an approximate doubling of the climatological risk. For enhanced risk, there is a 40-50% probability that precipitation will be within the indicated extreme. This represents an approximate tripling of the climatological risk. For greatly enhanced risk, the probability that precipitation will be within the indicated extreme exceeds 50%, i.e. the indicated extreme is the most likely outcome. A similar map is provided in the first season indicating probabilities of extreme temperature anomalies.

Boundaries between sub-regions should be considered as transition zones, and their location considered to be only qualitatively correct.

August-Octover 2002 through November-January 2003:

The following discussion briefly describes the probability anomaly forecasts:


No enhanced probabilities for above or below normal precipitation are forecast for any of the four forecast periods in continental Europe.


Enhanced probabilities for above normal temperature are forecast for most of Europe for the first two forecast periods, becoming limited to southern Europe and Scandenavia for the third period and only southern Europe for the fourth period. During the first forecast period, an enhanced probability for below normal temperature is forecast for some of the west coast of Europe and offshore islands, due to the expected continuation of below normal sea surface temperature is those areas.

OBSERVED CLIMATOLOGY DATA Aug-Sep-Oct, Sep-Oct-Nov, Oct-Nov-Dec and Nov-Dec-Jan


TERCILE THRESHOLDS (33%-ile & 67%-ile):

EXTREME THRESHOLDS (15%-ile & 85 %-ile):


  Top     Back