Long-lead statistical forecasts of the indian summer monsoon rainfall based on causal precursors

Giorgia Di Capua*, M. Kretschmer, J. Runge, A. Alessandri, R. V. Donner, B. van Den Hurk, R. Vellore, R. Krishnan, D. Coumou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Skillful forecasts of the Indian summer monsoon rainfall (ISMR) at long lead times (4–5 months in advance) pose great challenges due to strong internal variability of the monsoon system and nonstationarity of climatic drivers. Here, we use an advanced causal discovery algorithm coupled with a response-guided detection step to detect low-frequency, remote processes that provide sources of predictability for the ISMR. The algorithm identifies causal precursors without any a priori assumptions, apart from the selected variables and lead times. Using these causal precursors, a statistical hindcast model is formulated to predict seasonal ISMR that yields valuable skill with correlation coefficient (CC) ~0.8 at a 4-month lead time. The causal precursors identified are generally in agreement with statistical predictors conventionally used by the India Meteorological Department (IMD); however, our methodology provides precursors that are automatically updated, providing emerging new patterns. Analyzing ENSO-positive and ENSO-negative years separately helps to identify the different mechanisms at play during different years and may help to understand the strong nonstationarity of ISMR precursors over time. We construct operational forecasts for both shorter (2-month) and longer (4-month) lead times and show significant skill over the 1981–2004 period (CC ~0.4) for both lead times, comparable with that of IMD predictions (CC ~0.3). Our method is objective and automatized and can be trained for specific regions and time scales that are of interest to stakeholders, providing the potential to improve seasonal ISMR forecasts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1377-1394
Number of pages18
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number5
Early online date16 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


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