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Using synoptic type analysis to understand New Zealand climate during the Mid-Holocene

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 14:35 authored by Ackerly, D, Lorrey, A, Renwick, JA, Phipps, SJ, Wagner, S, Dean, S, Singarayer, J, Valdes, P, Abe-Ouchi, A, Ohgaito, R, Jones, JM
Diagnosing the climate of New Zealand from low-resolution General Circulation Models (GCMs) is notoriously difficult due to the interaction of the complex topography and the Southern Hemisphere (SH) mid-latitude westerly winds. Therefore, methods of downscaling synoptic scale model data for New Zealand are useful to help understand past climate. New Zealand also has a wealth of palaeoclimate-proxy data to which the downscaled model output can be compared, and to provide a qualitative method of assessing the capability of GCMs to represent, in this case, the climate 6000 yr ago in the Mid-Holocene. In this paper, a synoptic weather and climate regime classification system using Empirical Orthogonal Function (EOF) analysis of GCM and reanalysis data was used. The climate regimes are associated with surface air temperature and precipitation anomalies over New Zealand. From the analysis in this study, we find at 6000 BP that increased trough activity in summer and autumn led to increased precipitation, with an increased north-south pressure gradient (“zonal events”) in winter and spring leading to drier conditions. Opposing effects of increased (decreased) temperature are also seen in spring (autumn) in the South Island, which are associated with the increased zonal (trough) events; however, the circulation induced changes in temperature are likely to have been of secondary importance to the insolation induced changes. Evidence from the palaeoclimate-proxy data suggests that the Mid-Holocene was characterized by increased westerly wind events in New Zealand, which agrees with the preference for trough and zonal regimes in the models.


Publication title

Climate of the Past








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Copernicus GmbH

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2011 The Authors Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Effects of climate change on New Zealand (excl. social impacts)

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