Research News


Fickle Winters in East Asia Caused by Major Shift in Regional Atmospheric Circulation

image picture Image by Chaleephoto/Shutterstock

University of Tsukuba researchers investigated the weather patterns behind the unusual weather of the 2020/2021 winter in East Asia, revealing the structure and dynamics of shifting convection and circulation anomalies across Asia and the surrounding seas

Tsukuba, Japan—Sometimes it seems like winter just can't make up its mind—is it going to be harsh or mild? A little bit of both? New research from the University of Tsukuba showed how better understanding of large-scale weather patterns can help meteorologists improve seasonal forecasts and prepare us for dramatic shifts in weather conditions.

In a new study published in the Journal of the Meteorological Society of Japan, researchers at the University of Tsukuba investigated the weather patterns associated with a significant shift in the winter of 2020/2021 in East Asia, which was colder than normal for the first half of the season but warmer than normal in the second half. This study focused in particular on how convection in various tropical regions can drive weather patterns that influence different regions of East Asia.

"The winter climate over East Asia is influenced by two teleconnection patterns, one called the western Pacific pattern, and another that we have named the Southeast Asia-Japan pattern," explains the study's first author, PhD student Masaya Kuramochi. "These two patterns played a major role in the turnabout of East Asian air temperatures between first and second halves of the 2020/2021 winter season."

The goal of the new study was to investigate the structure and dynamics of these two distinct patterns. The researchers used meteorological data for winters from 1974 to 2021 to establish the baseline climate and analyzed anomalous departures from that baseline. The different circulation patterns were reproduced using the linear baroclinic model.

In the first half of the 2020/2021 winter season, an anticyclonic circulation anomaly appeared over the southeastern Tibetan Plateau, and a corresponding cyclonic anomaly occurred over northern Japan. This pattern was associated with enhanced convection over the South China Sea toward the Indian Ocean. But in the second half of this winter season, the anticyclonic anomaly shifted to southern Japan. "The resulting changes in the flow of cold air brought warmer-than-normal conditions to East Asia, and the enhanced convection also moved east toward the Philippine Sea," Says senior author Professor Hiroaki Ueda. "These shifting patterns also caused changes in the East Asian winter monsoon."

The authors of the study expect that in the future, closer analysis of interactions of air circulation between the tropics and higher-latitude regions will further improve understanding of these teleconnection patterns and lead to better seasonal forecasting.

This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI), Grant Number 21H00626K, the industry-academia collaboration project for the anomalous warm winter 2019/2020 of University of Tsukuba, and the Global Environment Research Fund (4-2102) of the Ministry of the Environment, Japan.

Original Paper

The article, "Two Types of Wintertime Teleconnection Patterns over the Western North Pacific Associated with Regionally Different Heating Anomalies," was published in the Journal of the Meteorological Society of Japan at DOI:10.2151/jmsj.2023-002


Professor UEDA Hiroaki
Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba

Degree Programs in Life and Earth Sciences, Graduate School of Science and Technology, University of Tsukuba

Related Link

Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences
Degree Programs in Life and Earth Sciences, Graduate School of Science and Technology

Celebrating the 151st 50th Anniversary of the University of Tsukuba
Celebrating the 151st 50th Anniversary of the University of Tsukuba