In this study, ensemble seasonal predictions of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) were conducted for 51 winters (1948-98) using a simple global atmospheric general circulation model. A means of estimating a priori the predictive skill of the AO ensemble predictions was developed based on the relative entropy ( R) of information theory, which is a measure of the difference between the forecast and climatology probability density functions (PDFs). Several important issues related to the AO predictability, such as the dominant precursors of forecast skill and the degree of confidence that can be placed in an individual forecast, were addressed. It was found that R is a useful measure of the confidence that can be placed on dynamical predictions of the AO. When R is large, the prediction is likely to have a high confidence level whereas when R is small, the prediction skill is more variable. A small R is often accompanied by a relatively weak AO index. The value of R is dominated by the predicted ensemble mean. The relationship identified here, between model skills and the R of an ensemble prediction, offers a practical means of estimating the confidence level of a seasonal forecast of the AO using the dynamical model.Through an analysis of the global sea surface temperature (SST) forcing, it was found that the winter AO-related R is correlated significantly with the amplitude of the SST anomalies over the tropical central Pacific and the North Pacific during the previous October. A large value of R is usually associated with strong SST anomalies in the two regions, whereas a poor prediction with a small R indicates that SST anomalies are likely weak in these two regions and the observed AO anomaly in the specific winter is likely caused by atmospheric internal dynamics.
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