Climatological seesaws in the Southwest Pacific
The analyses reported in this paper are based on an unprecedented 80 year record of reconstructed grid-point sea-level pressure data which are used to derive composite pressure anomaly fields for the Southwest Pacific for extreme phases of the Southern Oscillation. These show centres of action to the east and west of New Zealand. However, it is the intervening pivotal region that includes New Zealand which experiences a strong response — anomalous south to southwest flow when the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) is negative and north to northeasterly flow when the Index is positive. These contrasting responses are reflected in the spatial distribution of rainfall anomalies for New Zealand. A more complex response occurs in another pivotal region in the vicinity of the Southern Cook Islands. The South Pacific Convergence Zone is displaced northward and southward in association with extreme phases of the Southern Oscillation resulting in large rainfall anomalies in the areas which are under its influence only in such conditions. However, the effective finite width of the South Pacific Convergence Zone and its limited north/south displacement mean that there are some locations in the pivotal region which are always influenced by the convergence zone. Consequently these do not exhibit the same high degree of sensitivity to variations in the SOI. Such contrasting responses are demonstrated using a recently compiled rainfall archive for the Southwest Pacific.