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Prediction of East African Seasonal Rainfall Using Simplex Canonical
Correlation Analysis
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

11 September 2001 and 12 December 2002

A linear statistical model, canonical correlation analysis (CCA), was driven by the Nelder–Mead simplex
optimization algorithm (called CCA-NMS) to predict the standardized seasonal rainfall totals of East Africa at
3-month lead time using SLP and SST anomaly fields of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans combined together by
24 simplex optimized weights, and then ‘‘reduced’’ by the principal component analysis. Applying the optimized
weights to the predictor fields produced better March–April–May (MAM) and September–October–November
(SON) seasonal rain forecasts than a direct application of the same, unweighted predictor fields to CCA at both
calibration and validation stages. Northeastern Tanzania and south-central Kenya had the best SON prediction
results with both validation correlation and Hanssen–Kuipers skill scores exceeding 10.3. The MAM season
was better predicted in the western parts of East Africa. The CCA correlation maps showed that low SON rainfall
in East Africa is associated with cold SSTs off the Somali coast and the Benguela (Angola) coast, and low
MAM rainfall is associated with a buildup of low SSTs in the Indian Ocean adjacent to East Africa and the
Gulf of Guinea.

1. Introduction ticipating countries and numerical weather prediction
data from the Meteorological Data Distributed (MDD)
The rainfall in East Africa (Uganda, Kenya, and Tan- systems on a daily basis. Every month, conditions on
zania) exhibits great spatial and temporal variability El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), sea surface tem-
(Ogallo 1989) partly due to the complex topography, perature (SST), and other anomalies are obtained from
the existence of large inland lakes such as Lake Victoria, the Climate Prediction Center (Washington, D.C.) and
the Indian Ocean in the east, and the seasonal migration the National Climate Centre (Melbourne, Australia).
of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). These The MDD products are used to predict rainfall patterns
complexities produce diverse climates ranging from hu- in the following 10 days while the seasonal forecast is
mid tropical to arid in East Africa where serious me- formulated on the basis of ENSO, SST, and other in-
teorological droughts or low rainfall have been a con- dices. The meteorological departments of the region’s
stant threat (Ntale 2001). Trewartha (1981) attributed
participating countries then review the products from
this rainfall deficiency to the divergent characteristics
DMNC and at times adjust them according to some
and modest thickness of monsoon winds, strong merid-
known local relationships; for example, the Uganda me-
ian winds that limit the advection of sea moisture, and
teorological department enhances the DMNC seasonal
a stable stratification of air with a marked decline in
products. There have been past studies teleconnecting
moisture content.
climatic signals such as SST with East African rainfall
The Drought Monitoring Center in Nairobi (DMNC)
acquires near-real-time meteorological data from par- (e.g., Nicholson and Kim 1997). Even though climate
dynamics are predominantly nonlinear, linear models
such as the canonical correlation analysis (CCA) are
* Current affiliation: Department of Civil Engineering, Makerere
usually preferred over nonlinear models partly because
University, Kampala, Uganda. they are relatively easy to apply, for example, Shabbar
and Barnston (1996). Although CCA is considered ac-
curate when compared with other statistical methods
Corresponding author address: Dr. Thian Yew Gan, School of
Mining and Petroleum Energy, 220 Civil Electrical Engineering
such as the Markov models and empirical orthogonal
Bldg., University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6B 2G7, Canada. function (EOF) extrapolation, room for improvement
E-mail: still exists in the algorithm (e.g., Shen et al. 2001)

q 2003 American Meteorological Society

Autumn [September–Octo- 2. es for optimum weights to combine predictor fields (SST and SLP) to maximize its skill for predicting the seasonal rainfall of East Africa at the 3-month lead time. Summer [June–July– FIG. the global mean sea level pres- after referred to as NMS). This contrasts with Ogallo (1989) and Basalirwa (1995) who divided East Africa into over 20 CCA was calibrated by NMS. ciated with the convergence into the ITCZ of the north- rican rainfall teleconnects to large-scale climatic signals. for example. For an n p dimensional space. Rainfall climate of East Africa predictor field was divided into 13 zones (Fig. see our Fig. Africa. We focus on sonal lead times with good prediction skill.’’ is asso- To achieve the objectives of examining how East Af. 2. Two zones had insufficient SLP rican Meteorological Department (1963) generalized its data and were excluded from the analysis. We chose the 58 3 58 SST (1856–2000) and 58 gorithm called simplex (Nelder and Mead 1965. so that the parameter space is of size 24. here. SST. SLP grid data in the 24 zones. August (JJA)] is relatively dry except in northern Ugan- da where there is influx of the moist westerly Congo air mass (Basalirwa 1995).758 longitude weights. east monsoons controlled by subtropical anticyclones and predicting its seasonal rainfall at one or more sea. Research methodology (Ntale 2001). season throughout Uganda and Kenya due to the pres- ence of the moist southeast monsoons from the Indian Ocean converging into the ITCZ. 1. The East Af. each of May (MAM)] or the ‘‘long rains’’ is the main rainy size n p . and then NMS uses these sociated with regional features. Optimized SST (first number) and SLP (second number) weights obtained by NMS for the 1900–86 calibration data (44-yr moving window) that comprises the previous 6 months of SST and SLP fields for SON prediction. Research objectives ber–November (SON)]. Map of East Africa showing the rainfall grids. rainfall distribution patterns into four seasons.2106 JOURNAL OF CLIMATE VOLUME 16 FIG. 2) whose The 1900–97 East African monthly precipitation data SLP and SST anomalies were weighted with separate we used was gridded at 2. at the calibration stage NMS systemati. or the ‘‘short rains. 1). During zones with missing SLP weights in Fig. which iteratively search- zones. which are too many for our purpose. the winter season [December–January–February (DJF)]. NMS is executed as follows: we first assign one set the ITCZ is far to the south outside the East African of n p (524 in this case) initial weights to the SST and region and any rainfall in Uganda and Kenya are as. Rather than using only one sure dataset (GMSLP2. over the Azores and Arabian Peninsula. We ex- level pressure (SLP) of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans cluded grid points with more than 20% of missing data. Spring [March–April– weights to expand to (n p 1 1) sets of weights. as the predictor fields and transformed them as anom- cally optimizes some weights to combine SST and sea alies with respect to the 1961–90 base period. one can perceive . Further. 13 for resolution (Hulme 1994. The 3. Basnett and Parker 1997] grid climatic signal as in the past to improve the forecast data in selected zones in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans skill of CCA. 3 58 SLP [1871–2000.58 latitude by 3.1). we classified East Africa into six homogenous rainfall zones 4. 2. we propose MAM and SON seasons that together contribute more using a CCA model based on predictor fields combined than 70% of the annual rainfall in many parts of East by weights optimally estimated via a direct search al. as the optimum predictor fields to CCA. and 11 for SLP.

The 11 PCs were chosen to represent the combined predictor SST and SLP zones assigned with larger weights by field. the 1901–44 MAM and observed precipitation (xobs ). our predictor CCA. . Shabbar and Barnston (1996) the predictor PCs monotonically increased during the and Hwang et al. 2) truncates In the first CCA model run. (1) The calibrated CCA (e. 3d). If predictor fields have the same units. 3c) shows that density. (2001) sought to account for this by 1980s but leveled off in the 1990s. CCA uses x to predict African record. a contraction is used to 1 133 SLP) grid points 3 two seasons. Predictor field (SLP 1 SST) setup and Preisendorfer (1987). or Numerical Recipes by Press et al. 3) inputs dow was used. The total dimen- an expansion in the same direction to search for even better sion of the predictor matrix (p) was 554 or (144 SST weights is attempted. the CCA model run using the retained principal components (PCs) into CCA to a 44-yr moving window proceeded as follows: the MAM predict precipitation (xpred ) for the n grids (Fig. then When a moving window of 60 yr was used to calibrate they should be weighted equally. and so on until 1943–86 MAM and JJA pre- O [r 2 1r 2 ss 2 2 1m dictor data was used to predict the 1986 SON rainfall. lution of the teleconnection taking place in the last 6 and contractions. 3).. a 60-yr moving win- unrotated principal component analysis (PCA). then one-season lead time (Ogallo 1989). 2) whose SLP and SST anomalies were CCA. In our CCA–PCA system. expansions. As far as we While the variance extracted by the predictand NMS probably contribute more to the variability of the PCs remains relatively steady to 1997. component analysis com. their spatial. Results and discussion tracted for CCA.g. their means (m). The predictor fields (SST and SLP) have different units that could impact the nature of PCA ex- 5. To reduce the size of input data and to filter out data noise. If a reflection about the centroid of months to predict a given season (say SON) rainfall at the (n p 1 1) sides results in improvement in the OF. otherwise. OF 5 2 n i51 2 pred obs 2 pred2 mobs sobs 2 2 ] .org. while that of search for better weights. this is the first attempt to the combined SLP and SST variance (Fig. We used two previous seasons (say the parameter space to replace weights having the worst MAM and JJA) that account for some temporal evo- OF through three operations: reflections. we also used the calibrated CCA tivariate datasets (predictor x and predictand y). (OF) [Eq. linearly combined predictor fields by the was used while in the second run. 2) more than 30 eigenvalues . The scree plot (Fig. The tedious search for optimal weights (Fig. thousands of times until the OF is minimized. and the linear projection of one dataset to (lowest 10%) SON rain seasons in the 1900–97 East the dimensional space of another.statsci. and and JJA predictors were used to predict the 1944 SON standard deviations (s): rainfall. 1987–97. a 44-yr moving window the weighted. Procedures 1–3 are repeated the predictant (q) was 21. dictor fields that they conjectured to be more important 3b) while the 11 predictor PCs explained about 63% of to CCA. A moving window On the basis of the OF computed for each set of weights. for example. systematically search for optimal predictor weights in From here NMS 1) assigns one of the (n p 1 1) sets of CCA applications. Further. which is equivalent to maximizing the CCA forecast skill at the calibration stage. 24 optimized weights) was also validated with data independent of the calibration experience. 2 only with one weight orthogonality and their pattern are insensitive to the each) that are poorly sampled with insufficient SLP data number of PCs retained. www. (1)] based on the correlation ( r ) between xpred then sliding the window by 1 yr. and and JJA SST and SLP weighted data for 1900–43 was 4) computes a mean-square error objective function used to predict the 1943 SON rainfall of East Africa. For example. Canonical correlation analysis and principal Web sites such as www. occurs at around the sixth eigenvalue and only the first eration means a complete simulation run for CCA. Readers interested in the details of CCA can refer to Glahn (1968) and Barnett a. that extracted by several PCA used in CCA. However.15 JUNE 2003 NOTES AND CORRESPONDENCE 2107 that NMS generates a geometric figure of (n p 1 1) sides. a total of 7 predictand and 11 predictor PCs were fields have different units and nonuniform sampling retained (Fig.research.1 but the inflection point by NMS involves massive computations since each it. 1). For On the basis of the intercorrelation between two mul- diagnostic purposes. y in a least squares sense. [Details about NMS are available from b. only unrotated PCA weighted with separate weights. temporal 24. (1988)]. Two zones (boxes in Fig. canon- to analyze a composite dataset consisting of the driest ical vectors. giving a parameter space of size variance from the dataset. provides the flexibility of choosing a data size and a NMS strategically searches for other sets of weights in period desired. The 11 predictand subjectively apportioning heavier weights to those pre. weights to the predictor fields (section 4a). were excluded. such that 13 was for are used because they have the ability to extract maximal SST and 11 for SLP. of relatively uniform sampling density and quality. we retain only a limited The predictor field was divided into 13 zones (boxes number of dominant EOF or PCA modes as input to shown in Fig. PCs explained about 87% of the rainfall variance (Fig.

The HK score .11) for the Atlantic Ocean (figure not shown). T 2 Em which likely suggests that the MAM rainfall is telecon. Okoola the total number of forecasts obtainable with a perfect 1999). 4). (3) 2 The predictive skill of CCA was assessed at both the j calibration and validation stages using correlation ( r ).2108 JOURNAL OF CLIMATE VOLUME 16 FIG. (c) the eigenvalues for the combined predictor field composed of the previous SON and DJF SST and SLP anomalies. the HK score may be expressed in changes. terms of probabilities as tionship changes with time. E c is the number of correct hits expected were generally modest. Since canonical (observation) hits expected by chance. and the Hanssen–Kui.65 and a bigger HK 5 . The canonical roots obtained from the model forecast model. 2).’’ and ‘‘wet. T is nected to the Gulf of Guinea (Trewartha 1981. it means that the predictand–predictor rela. (2) weight (1. by chance. and (d) temporal change of % variance extracted by 11 and 15 PCs for predictor fields.01) ex.9 for SON (Fig. and above 66% may be used to define the sectors of the Indian Ocean was 1.’’ Tercile percentages of below 33%.7 and 0. pre i ) is 23/43. pre ) 2 O p(obs )p(pre ) K K i i i i HK 5 i51 i51 1 2 O [p(obs )] a.98–1. where H is the total number of correct forecasts. and E m is the marginal number of correct tween 0. The same categories in a square contingency table (Table 1). O p(obs . Here happened for MAM except for the SLP weight around H 2 Ec the southeastern Indian Ocean of 0.’’ ‘‘near by NMS were generally close to unity (0.23 (Fig. cept that the SST weight of SON in the northeastern 33%–66%. with the first root averaging be. where obs i and pre i are the ith observed and predicted pers (HK) skill score (Hanssen and Kuipers 1965). (a) The eigenvalues arranged in descending order (scree plot) for the MAM rainfall. in Table 1 the probability of the compute the HK skill score. The optimal weights for the predictor fields obtained rainfall is grouped into categories such as ‘‘dry. Predictive skill of CCA K . normal. j51 root-mean-square error (rmse). For a K 3 K roots change in magnitude as the moving window width contingency table. To values. the predicted and observed correct forecasts p(obs i . (b) the temporal change of % variance extracted by 5 and 7 PCs with respect to the location of the 60-yr moving window. For example. 3.

One is a dry con- MAM nor SON rainfall for southeastern Tanzania. Canonical correlation maps between precipitation and dation stages (Table 2). which SST 1 SLP fields provide useful diagnostic outputs. 15. For the most part zone 6 does not SST fields could be considered as a sequence of discrete perform well at the validation stage. The (predictand) shows negative correlation for most of the correlation for SON is more than 0. A buildup of cold SSTs dur- categories Dry normal Wet Total ing JJA in this ocean sector probably reduces the amount Dry 8 4 2 14 of moisture advected by the north easterlies giving rise Near-normal 2 7 5 14 to anomalously low SON rainfall. 1) are retained for ditions. The tinental track from Arabia and the other is a humid track over the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.15 JUNE 2003 NOTES AND CORRESPONDENCE 2109 FIG. the same 24 weights optimized by NMS ences (Fig. predicted fields of CCA-NMS with some minor differ- brated CCA. CCA model diagnostics improves the predictions at both calibration and vali. sumption that low SON rainfall and the associated SLP– itive HK scores. 4. the East Africa except for Uganda and southern Tanzania. The j 3 canonical mode hmap East Africa and to a lesser extent in eastern Kenya. (j1 to j 3 ) were all greater than 0. 1) shows higher HK of the 1900–97 dataset) and the corresponding SST and scores. northeasterly trade winds flow into East Africa generally It would seem that CCA-NMS could neither predict through two tracks (Findlatter 1971). ter than normal conditions while most of Tanzania and Only results of 21 of the 31 grids that fall within the northern to northwestern Kenya experienced dry con- three East African countries (Fig. For a model to have useful SLP fields of the previous season (JJA) to a CCA anal- predictive skill it should have positive HK scores and ysis to explore their (linear) relationships during dry the rmse should generally be of about one standard de. In particular. Similar spatial patterns are also found in the discussion (Table 2). and 19 in Fig. zone 5. Using these weights derived by NMS at the calibration stage predominantly b.8. which is negatively cor- Observed Near. An example of a square contingency table prepared for the grid 15 SON prediction experiment at the calibration stage. related to the precipitation. Zones 3 and 4 perform generally well with pos. Variations of the first and second canonical roots for the SON prediction experiments using (a) a 60-yr moving window and (b) a 44-yr moving window. 6a) shows that Uganda and ing to a perfect score. It seems that CCA driven by of minor interest. which means all Figure 5 shows the correlation maps for the validation three modes were important. subjected the 10 driest SON rain seasons (bottom 10% ya (grids 11. According to Eq. narrow coastal band starting from Madagascar reaching the northeastern coast of Africa and extending all the Predicted categories way to the west coast of India. The composite dataset was based on the as- viation. However we only analyzed stage of SON and MAM.25 for most parts of western parts of East Africa. as some r are less ‘‘episodes’’ separated by periods whose variations were than or equal to zero. The MAM season seems to the j 3 canonical correlation maps of the 10 driest SON be better predicted than SON in the western parts of season (figure not shown). Inspection of the JJA SST gmap (predictor) reveals that there is a TABLE 1. 6b). The JJA SLP gmap Wet 4 3 8 15 shows a buildup of the SLP in the south-southwest In- Total 14 14 15 43 dian Ocean that likely reduces the possibility of a low . (3). values range from 21 to 11 with the latter correspond. To ensure credibility of the cali. conditions. We comprises northeastern Tanzania and south-central Ken. 12. predictor fields not combined with optimized weights The canonical correlations for the first three modes has little prognostic value in East African rainfall. both random the western to central Kenya highlands experienced wet- and constant forecasts receive the same zero score. observed SON field (Fig. and lower rmse. During this season. r. at the 1944–86 calibration stage were applied to CCA at the 1987–97 validation stage.

16 0. .93 0. A summary of the skill measures obtained from the model runs using a 44-yr moving window.42 0.34 0. while a high DJF SLP air mass flowing into the region increases instabilities pressure zone in this ocean sector indicates strong south- of the convergence zone thus increasing the likelihood easterly monsoons.13 0.04 8 1.88 0.24 26 1.20 0. Here r values that are statistically significant (i.13 0.21 0.47 0.09 1.06 0.10 0.31 6 6 1. 5.18 9 1.16 1.28 0.26 0.33 0.31 2 18 1.20 20.08 0.24 0.26 0.e.02 0. In all cases a combined SST–SLP predictor field was used.30 0.28 20.09 1.87 0.06 0.04 5 11 1.30 0.17 0.44 0.26 0.95 0.18 10 1.08 0.30 0.91 0. Those years with SSTs in the Gulf of Guinea could probably affect the weak westerly incursions and subsequent strong flows FIG.20 20.22 0. r ø 0.45 15 1. Low mass converging into East Africa.02 0.17 0.30 0.06 1.27 0.5 for sample size 5 11 and one-sided t test at a 5 0.29 0.05) are the MAM precipitation in Uganda and the SON precipitation in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.47 0.27 0.20 0.20 1.03 0.35 0.14 0.36 0.08 1.39 0.09 0.22 0. It has been suggested that a strong Congo that converges into East Africa.31 24 1.74 0.09 0.13 0.22 0.63 0.04 20 1.22 0.84 0.04 0.73 20.07 0.13 0.18 28 1.03 20.01 0.04 21 1. Weights optimized by Simplex Calibration Validation (1944–86) (1987–97) Grid Zone no.25 0. which diminishes the Congo air of long rains in Kenya and Uganda (Okoola 1999).23 0.04 14 1.05 1.17 0.07 20.05 0.20 1.44 0.31 19 1.21 20.20 0..38 3 23 1.13 1.07 20.10 7 1.31 0.45 20.31 27 1.13 0.13 20.04 SON rainfall for parts of eastern Tanzania and south.16 0.17 0.12 0.18 4 16 1. strength and moisture content of the Congo air mass eastern Kenya.25 0.33 0.10 22 1. Rmse r HK Rmse r HK 1 25 1.12 0. The ‘‘unweighted’’ results refer to runs where no weight obtained from the NMS algorithm was applied to the predictor fields.37 0.89 0.83 0. The correlation ( r ) between the 1987–97 (validation) CCA predicted and observed (a) SON and (b) MAM standardized precipitation for East Africa.16 0.2110 JOURNAL OF CLIMATE VOLUME 16 TABLE 2.28 0.31 12 1.21 20.82 0.18 20.42 0.21 0.22 0.05 0.12 0.16 0.08 0.

25 20.16 0.4 0.09 20.2 0.13 1.1 0.09 1.24 1.01 0.23 20.2 20.03 20.16 0.13 0.10 1.23 0.3 0.2 0.18 1. .97 0.06 0.02 0.2 0.2 0.10 20.07 0.97 0.71 0. However.49 0.11 0.13 1.09 20.13 1.07 1. ability of SST and SLP of the Atlantic and Indian wartha 1981).20 0.14 0.14 0. Our observation agrees with their find.27 0.16 20.80 20.09 0.11 0.32 20.18 1.21 0.13 0.04 1.25 20.15 0.00 20.1 0.44 20.04 1.59 0.04 0.28 20.13 1.09 0.12 0.65 20.99 20.24 1.65 20.31 20.02 1.10 1.1 0.08 20.3 0. By developing essential relationships between ings. (Continued) Unoptimized weights Calibration Validation (1944–86) (1987–97) Rmse r HK Rmse r HK 1.26 20.16 0.09 0.4 0.2 0.2 20.10 of the southeasterly into the interior of East Africa have capitalizing on the influence of low-frequency vari- been known to be particularly dry during MAM (Tre.40 0.04 1.06 0.19 0.1 0.24 20.3 0. Maps showing the (a) observed and (b) predicted SON standardized seasonal rainfall for 1988 (validation stage). the current boundary condition (SST and SLP) and the We believe that our combined CCA-NMS system precipitation at the next season from sufficient past cli- likely predicts droughts with acceptable accuracy at the mate records.3 0.10 1.22 0. Oceans.10 20.23 0.31 0.10 1.10 1.20 0.17 0.17 0.08 1.31 1.02 1.3 0.16 1. we could achieve reasonable predictions seasonal lead time for some parts of East Africa by of the ‘‘average’’ conditions of the latter. 6.12 0. such FIG.00 0.37 0.14 0.61 20.31 20.07 20.4 0.17 0.2 0.04 1.17 0.72 0.38 1.06 0.2 0.31 1.10 1.19 1.04 1.23 0.09 1.10 1.23 0.15 JUNE 2003 NOTES AND CORRESPONDENCE 2111 TABLE 2.84 20.37 20.

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