We use recurrent neural networks (RNNs) to investigate the complex interactions between the long-term trend in dryness and a projected, short but intense, period of wetness due to the 2015-2016 El Niño. Although it was forecasted that this El Niño season would bring significant rainfall to the region, our long-term projections of the Palmer Z Index (PZI) showed a continuing drought trend, contrasting with the 1998-1999 El Niño event. RNN training considered PZI data during 1896-2006 that was validated against the 2006-2015 period to evaluate the potential of extreme precipitation forecast. We achieved a statistically significant correlation of 0.610 between forecasted and observed PZI on the validation set for a lead time of 1 month. This gives strong confidence to the forecasted precipitation indicator. The 2015-2016 El Niño season proved to be relatively weak as compared with the 1997-1998, with a peak PZI anomaly of 0.242 standard deviations below historical averages, continuing drought conditions.
Le, J.A., El-Askary, H.M., Allali, M., Struppa, D.C., 2017. Application of recurrent neural networks for drought projections in California. Atmospheric Research 188, 100–106. doi:10.1016/j.atmosres.2017.01.002
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