The recent increase in availability of high-performance computing (HPC) resources in South Africa allowed the development of an ocean–atmosphere coupled general circulation model (OAGCM). The ECHAM4.5-South African Weather Service (SAWS) Modular Oceanic Model version 3 (MOM3-SA) is the first OAGCM to be developed in Africa for seasonal climate prediction. This model employs an initialization strategy that is different from previous versions of the model that coupled the same atmosphere and ocean models. Evaluation of hindcasts performed with the model revealed that the OAGCM is successful in capturing the development and maturity of El Niño and La Niña episodes up to 8 months ahead. A model intercomparison also indicated that the ECHAM4.5-MOM3-SA has skill levels for the Niño-3.4 region SST comparable with other coupled models administered by international centers. Further analysis of the coupled model revealed that La Niña events are more skillfully discriminated than El Niño events. However, as is typical for OAGCM, the model skill was generally found to decay faster during the spring barrier.
The analysis also showed that the coupled model has useful skill up to several-months lead time when predicting the equatorial Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) during the period spanning between the middle of austral spring and the start of the summer seasons, which reaches its peak in November. The weakness of the model in other seasons was mainly caused by the western segment of the dipole, which eventually contaminates the dipole mode index (DMI). The model is also able to forecast the anomalous upper air circulations, particularly in the equatorial belt, and surface air temperature in the Southern African region as opposed to precipitation.