Forecasting monsoons and tropical storms can be a challenge, but could be improved for East Asia because the variability of a major atmospheric high-pressure system over the western Pacific Ocean seems to be predictable.

Bin Wang and his group at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu show that the intensity of the western Pacific Subtropical High is highly correlated with the strength of the summer monsoon and of tropical storm activity. They used climate models to examine the mechanisms that control the system's variability and found that the annual strength and location of the high-pressure system are closely linked to the temperatures of both the central Pacific and Indian oceans.

Understanding the atmosphere-ocean feedbacks that govern atmospheric dynamics could improve the prediction of droughts, floods and storms in the region, the authors suggest.

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2013)