The Northeast region of Brazil (NEB) is characterized by large climate variability that causes extreme and long unseasonal wet and dry periods. Despite significant model developments to improve seasonal forecasting for the NEB, the achievement of a satisfactory accuracy often remains a challenge, and forecasting methods aimed at reducing uncertainties regarding future climate are needed. In this work, we implement and assess the performance of an empirical model (EmpM) based on a decomposition of historical data into dominant modes of precipitation and seasonal forecast applied to the NEB domain. We analyzed the model’s performance for the February-March-April quarter and compared its results with forecasts based on data from the North American Multi-model Ensemble (NMME) project for the same period. We found that the first three leading precipitation modes obtained by empirical orthogonal functions (EOF) explained most of the rainfall variability for the season of interest. Thereby, this study focuses on them for the forecast evaluations. A teleconnection analysis shows that most of the variability in precipitation comes from sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in various areas of the Pacific and the tropical Atlantic. The modes exhibit different spatial patterns across the NEB, with the first being concentrated in the northern half of the region and presenting remarkable associations with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Atlantic Meridional Mode (AMM), both linked to the latitudinal migration of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). As for the second mode, the correlations with oceanic regions and its loading pattern point to the influence of the incursion of frontal systems in the southern NEB. The time series of the third mode implies the influence of a lower frequency mode of variability, probably related to the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). The teleconnection patterns found in the analysis allowed for a reliable forecast of the time series of each mode, which, combined, result in the final rainfall prediction outputted by the model. Overall, the EmpM outperformed the post-processed NMME for most of the NEB, except for some areas along the northern region, where the NMME showed superiority.
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