ESRL/PSD Seminar Series

The development and application of long-range forecasting of extreme events across Australia

Chris White
Churchill Fellow, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


There is increasing demand for more skilful, long–range predictions of extreme events across Australia. Recent extreme events, such as flooding in Queensland and New South Wales in 2011 and the record–breaking heat waves and bushfires in early 2013 experienced across much of Australia, mean that many sectors – particularly the emergency management, agriculture and health communities – are endeavouring to find strategies to cope with such increasingly long and intense extremes. These events have highlighted the need for improved weather forecasts beyond the typical one–week weather forecast. With the improvement of numerical prediction models based on coupled general circulation models (GCMs), ensemble prediction techniques and initialization methods, there is now increasing international focus on the sub–seasonal (i.e. multi–week) to seasonal prediction timescales. In Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology is actively investigating the use of its operational dynamical seasonal forecast model POAMA for providing multi–week forecasts to fill the gap in prediction capability between weather forecasts and seasonal outlooks and beyond. This seminar explores some of the recent extreme weather events experienced across Australia and looks at some of the key large–scale climatic processes that drive them, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), and examines the ability of POAMA to simulate and forecast these processes in relation to extreme heat waves. The analysis of the climate drivers determines where the POAMA system provides skillful forecasts of extreme events on various timescales and identifies important ‘windows’ of forecast opportunity and guides future model development. Understanding the capability of POAMA for predicting extreme events on the multi-week timescale underpins the potential future delivery of appropriate forecast products and influences their uptake by the applications community.

Dr. White previously worked for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research (CAWCR) where he helped to develop experimental products to assess the skill of POAMA. He recently moved to the University of Tasmania where he is beginning research into the potential uses and applications of forecasts on the sub–seasonal to seasonal timescale, to enable individuals, communities and key decision–makers to be more prepared and ultimately more resilient to extreme events. Chris was recently awarded a Churchill Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in Australia, which is funding this trip to visit various institutions in Sweden, the UK and USA to discuss the development and use of improved multi-week forecasts and longer–term climate predictions of extreme events – particularly for flood risk, coastal inundation and heat waves – and to explore potential applications of these forecasts for a range of decision–makers and sectors. If you'd like to meet with Dr. White during his visit, contact Dr. Andrea Ray at

Wednesday, May 28th
Seminar Coordinator:

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