Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation

From the National Science Foundation

Scientists probe Indian Ocean for clues to worldwide weather patterns

Study shows how tropical weather brews in the Indian Ocean and moves eastward along the equator

IMAGE: This is the S-PolKa radar on Addu Atoll in the Indian Ocean, before the start of DYNAMO.

Click here for more information.

An international team of researchers will begin gathering in the Indian Ocean next month, using aircraft, ships, moorings, radars, numerical models and other tools to study how tropical weather brews there and moves eastward along the equator, with reverberating effects around the globe.

The six-month field campaign, known as DYNAMO or Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation, will help improve long-range weather forecasts and seasonal outlooks and enable scientists to further refine computer models of global climate.

DYNAMO is organized internationally as the Cooperative Indian Ocean Experiment on Intraseasonal Variability in the Year 2011 (CINDY2011), which is led by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology.

The goal of the DYNAMO field campaign is to better understand a disturbance of the tropics, known as the Madden-Julian Oscillation or MJO.

This disturbance, which originates in the equatorial Indian Ocean roughly every 30 to 90 days, is part of the Asian and Australian monsoons and can enhance hurricane activity in the northeast Pacific and Gulf of Mexico, trigger torrential rainfall along the west coast of North America and affect the onset of El Niño.

Scientists believe that the MJO is the world’s greatest source of atmospheric variability in the one- to three-month time frame.

“The Madden-Julian Oscillation has a huge impact all over the globe,” says Chidong Zhang of the University of Miami, DYNAMO’s chief scientist. “It connects weather and climate, and it is important to forecasting.”

“The MJO drives weather in both hemispheres even though it sits along the equator,” says Jim Moore of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and director of the DYNAMO project office. “Its origins have never been measured in such a systematic fashion before.”

DYNAMO, the Littoral Air-Sea Processes (LASP) Experiment, and the ARM MJO Investigation Experiment (AMIE) are the three U.S. projects contributing to CINDY 2011.

DYNAMO, LASP, and AMIE are jointly supported by several United States agencies including the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

IMAGE: Scientists from around the world will gather for DYNAMO, a study of the Indian Ocean.

Click here for more information.

“DYNAMO is exciting because it’s our first chance to do a large, in-depth field campaign in the Indian Ocean,” says scientist Eric DeWeaver, program director in the NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funds DYNAMO.

“This is a rare occasion,” DeWeaver says, “when many countries pool their scientific resources to look at a phenomenon that’s of tremendous interest to everyone. The precipitation pattern over the Indian Ocean can influence weather and climate as far away as the USA, including the number of hurricanes that form in the Gulf of Mexico.”

There are a total of 16 countries providing staff, facilities, and/or observations to the international effort. The countries are: Australia, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Korea, the Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

U.S. scientists, students, engineers and staff from 16 universities and 11 national laboratories and centers participate in the field campaign. NCAR provides major observing facilities to the science team and helps to oversee operations and data management for the project.

The main observation sites will be based in the Maldives, Diego Garcia and Manus Island, as well as aboard research ships and aircraft in the Indian Ocean. The major radar array and land-based observation “Super Site” will be located on Addu Atoll.

The AMIE project provides continuous observations on Addu Atoll and Manus for the six-month period.

“The entire international program encompasses a vast expanse of the Indian Ocean on both sides of the equator, and into the equatorial western Pacific, providing scientists a chance to measure the pulse of the whole life cycle of the MJO,” says Chuck Long of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, AMIE’s principal investigator.

The MJO plays a key role in driving tropical weather and climate variations during all seasons of the year. It also interacts with other atmospheric patterns, such as the El Niño/Southern Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation, that can shape weather and climate patterns across much of the globe.

Scientists need to better understand the MJO, both to improve long-range weather forecasts and seasonal outlooks worldwide, and perhaps make the leap to longer-term forecasts of climate that may extend years into the future.

In winter, for example, the onset of an MJO can set off atmospheric waves that travel across the globe and, about 10 days later, influence the location and severity of major storms on the west coast of North America, some of which cause significant flooding.

IMAGE: The research vessel Roger Revelle will take part in the Indian Ocean experiments.

Click here for more information.

“If you can find out how an MJO event starts, you may get a couple of weeks’ warning about wintertime storms in the United States,” says NCAR scientist Mitchell Moncrieff, a member of the DYNAMO Science Steering Committee.

At present, the computer models that scientists use to study global weather and climate fail to capture the oscillation very well. The information from the field campaign can lead to significant improvements in the models.

As global climate changes, it is becoming more important to understand how the atmosphere and oceans interact to regulate Earth’s temperature and respond to long-term variation.

Field projects such as DYNAMO and AMIE, with an emphasis on basic research, add to scientists’ growing body of knowledge about the many interconnected components of Earth’s complex climate system.

“The long-term applications and implications of the data that come from this international field campaign could be profound in terms of our understanding of weather, climate, and climate change,” Moore says.

The DYNAMO field campaign brings a considerable array of instruments to bear on the MJO, including two research aircraft provided by NOAA and the French Airborne Environment Research Service, four ships from the United States, India, Indonesia and Japan, a half-dozen meteorological radars, moored buoys and a suite of other instruments.

Especially critical during the field campaign are radars, which provide information about the microphysics inside clouds and rainstorms that lead to the development of the MJO.

At the project “Super Site” on Addu Atoll, a meteorological radar array with seven different frequencies will be used to scan the MJO as it moves through the region.

These radars are NCAR’s S-PolKa, a dual-wavelength Doppler radar that can distinguish the sizes and shapes of precipitation particles and observe the water vapor from which clouds form, thereby shedding light on the development of clouds and rainfall; Texas A&M C-band radar that can estimate rainfall and latent heating; and a suite of radars in a mobile facility of AMIE that detect different types of clouds.

“DYNAMO and AMIE mark the first time in the modern era that we’ll be able to use remote sensing techniques, particularly radar, to measure atmospheric phenomena from individual cloud droplets to large raindrops,” Moore says. “We have instrument capabilities for this project that we didn’t have 10 or 15 years ago.”

In addition to measuring the sky, the researchers also will turn their attention to the sea.

The physical properties of the ocean, such as temperature and salinity, are as important to the MJO as are the properties of the atmosphere.

A collection of ocean sensors, deployed from ships and moorings in the open ocean, will collect data on ocean-atmosphere interactions.

In addition to deploying the S-PolKa radar, NCAR supports the project by providing sounding systems that measure standard weather variables, hosting the project’s logistics and planning office and handling data management, which includes creating a real-time, online field catalog and long-term data archive.

The U.S. researchers are collaborating heavily with their Maldivian hosts. The Maldives Meteorological Service is providing local weather knowledge, meeting and operations space, and facilities; the researchers in turn will offer training on radar and other instrumentation to local meteorologists.

A DYNAMO and AMIE media day and opening ceremony will take place on Addu Atoll at the beginning of the field campaign.

Other outreach activities with local schools and organizations will be incorporated into the project during the entire deployment period.

###

43 thoughts on “Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation

  1. Dear old Addu, or RAF Gan as it used to be called. Sea levels there look the same as they used to be in the 60’s.

  2. So… they’re going out to observe and measure a bunch of stuff and then use the findings to improve various models. In all seriousness; good.
    .
    .
    .
    So the models were really good before this except – whoopsie! – we forgot all about the Indian Ocean… and clouds, we didn’t get clouds in there very well… oh! and ENSO… we kinda came up short there… and, oh yeah… we forgot (and on and on) /snaeky part

  3. Aren’t the Maldives under water by now?

    Kidding aside, this looks to be a Good Thing. The various oscillatory artifacts and ocean currents likely have enough climatic effect to completely bury man’s contribution to the climate. We do need to know about them.

  4. DYNAMO, CINDY, AMIE, obviously they had fun composing acronyms. I wonder how many man-hours that took. :/ Well, at least they’re conducting observations. Here’s hoping the participation of India will keep them honest.

    Scientists need to better understand the MJO, both to improve long-range weather forecasts and seasonal outlooks worldwide, and perhaps make the leap to longer-term forecasts of climate that may extend years into the future.

    Did they just admit that current climate forecasts are unreliable in the multi-year range? O.o!

  5. I was lucky enough to get to both Diego Garcia and the Maldives. And it’s about time that the Indian Ocean evaporative/salinity engine had a comprehensive quantitative study. For both thermohaline and direct atmospheric water cycle circulation. A increase in evaporation there should lead to increased precipitation somewhere else. Which brings me to a somewhat off topic question…

    Question: If high latitude continental rebound is indeed masking a sea level increase from tidal gauge data, should there not also be a corresponding “equatorial subsidence” to balance things out?

  6. MJO is a symptom that represents ocean atmosphere weather patterns. Just like all the other initialed patterns that have been recognized as being variable in time and space. Six month observation will only confuse an already confused issue as there are longer term patterns that must be taken into account!

  7. They are spending a lot of money to solve the model problem exposed by skeptic scientists to further prove climate change in the far future with models. It would be interesting to see who pays the bills and writes the report of this international team of researchers.

  8. But, wouldn’t something heavy placed on a Maldive island cause the island to tip over or sink further into the sea? And does the big round thing come with telescoping legs as sea levels rise? Will scuba divers be employed to check the sensors? What country is providing the BBQ, burn barrel, and brick wall? We know that documents were signed under the water. Was this cooperative research agreement signed then too? So many questions. Need funding. And I mean seriously large amounts of coinage.

    sarc/off

    This is a good thing. Warning: Do not let Hansen, Mann and their fellow compatriots anywhere near the damned thing or the data that comes from it.

  9. Oh great, a six month all expenses paid, paid vacation to paradise for hundreds of koolaid drinkers, funded by NSF with an annual budget increase of almost a billion dollars in each of the last few years, making almost $7 billion last year go poof. Gee, I wonder if their “data” will reverse any “settled” science… I just hope to God they bring enough sun screen lotion.

  10. “The Madden-Julian Oscillation has a huge impact all over the globe,” says Chidong Zhang of the University of Miami, DYNAMO’s chief scientist. “It connects weather and climate, and it is important to forecasting.”

    Excuse me for being pissy this morning, but if climate change science is settled then why are they wasting their time and our money on something which has a huge impact all over the globe and connects weather and climate and… aw, fuggetaboutit!

  11. Poor Julian. Not only condemned to second billing, but callously eliminated from the cool acronym. No respect I tell ya, no respect.

  12. I think they are actually trying to improve the meteorology models for weather forecasting rather than the ridiculous climate models. This looks like a good thing to study to improve our ability to get the weather right a month or three out. Current models break down after 10 days or so for the most part. The error bars start to get to be such that about all they say is it will likely be hot in the summer and cool in the winter. Be nice to know that my vacation was going to be free of major storms when I am booking it three months out.

  13. Sjoerd (September 23, 2011 at 6:09 am) wrote:
    “Vincent Courtillot has some interesting things to say about correlation of the Madden-Julian Oscillation with solar activity. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IG_7zK8ODGA from 18:50 onward.”

    My understanding is that he & his colleagues have been BLOCKED from publishing their findings on the MJO. As a volunteer auditor, this angers me. Let these people put out whatever they are thinking without censorship. Even if they have an incomplete picture, they may have VITAL clues that are NECESSARY for others to advance their work.

    We all have different pieces of the puzzle and different skills that we bring to this multidisciplinary problem. I want to see what has their attention. It is NOT acceptable for gatekeepers to DICTATE that we BLINDLY defer to their SO-CALLED “expert judgement”. I can say with absolute certainty that some of this so-called “expert judgement” is based on “shaky” (to put it politely) functional numeracy foundations. Simply allow the thing out in public view.

    I recall some of the objections we had from one so-called “expert” who wanted the seminal LeMouel, Blanter, Shnirman, & Courtillot (2010) paper BLOCKED from publication. The objections were patently cosmetic & frivolous in nature. They were also based in DEEP functional numeracy deficiency. (I was polite at the time, but we cannot allow collegiality to hold society & civilization hostage indefinitely. The grace period has expired.)

  14. This is the S-PolKa radar on Addu Atoll in the Indian Ocean, before the start of DYNAMO.

    A little more research material, kinda RADAR-centric since that’s my interest:

    DYNAMO—DYNAmics of the MJO (PPT file)

    – Origins of MJO in central, equatorial Indian Ocean
    – Mechanisms for initiation not well understood

    MJO affects:

    -Monsoons (Onset and Intensity)
    -TC activity in all 3 ocean basins
    -Teleconnections to mid-latitudes
    -Coupling to ENSO (influences onset, intensification and irregularity of ENSO)

    S-Polka radar:

    -Scanning,
    -polarized,
    -dual wavelength (Ka- and S-band)
    -S-band RADAR is substantially non-attenuating
    -Ka-band is strongly attenuating

    Radar Discussion Report (PPT file)

    -Review of radar systems
    -Locations of radars at supersite
    -Scanning strategies
    -Data formats and displays
    -Real time data transmission
    -Staffing
    -Questions for ARM/AMIE
    -Products and relation to modeling—discussion deferred

    Humidity Estimates Using Simultaneous S-and Ka-band Radar Measurements (pdf file)

    – Slide 3 has close-up of the _two_ RADAR antennas (S-band and Ka band) on the same AZ/EL ‘positioner’ mount
    – PDF file also has images of/samples of RADAR reflectivity

    S-PolKa Users’ Guide: http://www.eol.ucar.edu/isf/projects/rico2004/spol/

    .

  15. And here I thought that the Madden Oscillation was something in Madden NFL 6 and that Julian Peterson used to play for the SF 49ers.

  16. The ‘researchers’ using the numerical models have no need to physically visit the Indian Ocean. They could work just as well in Farmville, or back home in the Mushroom Kingdom.

  17. I didn’t see any mention of measuring CO2, either in the air or in the water.
    Haven’t we been hearing for years that CO2 is THE driver of climate?
    And why is so much money going to measurements instead of bigger computers for the modeleers?
    Don’t they know the science is already settled?

  18. Let’s see if I understand this correctly. They have to hang around in the equatorial Indian Ocean waiting until they can observer the MoJO rising?

  19. Tom Davidson says:
    September 23, 2011 at 10:19 am

    “The ‘researchers’ using the numerical models have no need to physically visit the Indian Ocean. They could work just as well in Farmville, or back home in the Mushroom Kingdom.”

    But they need to be rewarded for their previous work on AGW.

  20. This is a truly wonderful thing. After fifty years of work like this, we might have a substantial understanding of some important parts of Earth’s climate, something that no one has now.

    I bet the Warmista are saying “How did the funding for this get through? We must redefine the criteria for funding!”

  21. Theo, I expect the religious warministas are plotting how to get their hands on the raw data and how to massage it to sing out of the hymnal.

  22. This shows that the more we know the more we don’t know. I can remember when the Norwegean cyclone model explained everything.

  23. navytech says:
    September 23, 2011 at 6:27 am

    Question: If high latitude continental rebound is indeed masking a sea level increase from tidal gauge data, should there not also be a corresponding “equatorial subsidence” to balance things out?

    =======

    Reasonable question. Well, yes, there’s probably subsidence to balance things out. But not necessarily equatorial. There are tables of Glacial Isostatic Adjustment available at http://www.psmsl.org/train_and_info/geo_signals/gia/ Somewhat confusingly a positive GIA means the site is sinking. These tables seem to be based on one or more (obscure?) computer models. When I looked at them they seemed to show that the formerly glaciated land is rebounding only in the very high latitudes and is actually sinking (again?) further South. I could easily have gotten that wrong.

    I have no idea if these models are well-found, utterly bogus, or somewhere in between. I also have no idea how local sinking from sediment compaction/resource extraction is measured/handled.

    Note that measuring the rising/sinking of a site to mm a year is anything but simple although it will certainly be doable eventually if it isn’t doable today.

  24. For years I have noticed an intensification of weather every 35-42 days here in Queensland, and I’ve suggested another for around end of September/ early October- now we have a name for it! Interesting times.

  25. “Scientists believe that the MJO is the world’s greatest source of atmospheric variability in the one- to three-month time frame.”

    ========================

    Agreed. This is an exciting study and will yield a wealth of information on the complexities of the atmosphere.

    Joe Bastardi has been trumpeting the Madden Jullian Oscillation for many years now.

    It is good to see Big Science finally embracing the study of it and even embracing the “variability” word…even though the researchers still have to throw in the token “climate change” disclaimer at the end.

    Gotta keep that NSF lifeline coming…no matter how much smoke that has to be blown up their collective___.

    Politics (ugh) aside…I look forward to the knowledge that comes out of this one, for sure.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  26. Interstellar Bill says:
    September 23, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I didn’t see any mention of measuring CO2, either in the air or in the water.
    Haven’t we been hearing for years that CO2 is THE driver of climate?
    And why is so much money going to measurements instead of bigger computers for the modelers? Don’t they know the science is already settled?

    ===================================

    Its pretty fascinating how fast that one has died, isn’t it?

    Fortunately there are enough REAL scientists and physicists who are ON IT and who look to the Scientific Method, and not GroupThink Disorder, for their guidance.

    They are beginning to take back control of the helm (from hijacks of lunatics like Mann and Hansen), and, aside from the token “climate change” phrase here and there, they are righting the ship, through proper research.

    Interesting times…

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  27. A good read, until I got to…
    “As global climate changes, it is becoming more important to understand how the atmosphere and oceans interact to regulate Earth’s temperature and respond to long-term variation.”
    They couldn’t leave out a paeon to AGW, even if toned down as “climate change”. That’s how it passed muster, by paying homage to changing climate, something quite unnecessary for a process that occurs on the scale of weeks (weather, not climate).

  28. (SarcOn) Why are we borrowing all this high interest Chinese Money to find out, again, and again, and again, what we already know from our super duper, gizmo models? As “Albert The Infallible” and his Noble Prize Winning UN accolites have said over, and over, and over again: “The Science is settled!”, “The End is Nigh!”(SarcOff)

    Really sounds like a great effort, let’s hope they actually “learn” something.

    PS: Let’s also hope the Chinese gave us a not too high interest rate. I still don’t understand why they don’t do it for a whole lot less money.

  29. Don, thanks for looking in depth. There isn’t much data out there. Sadly, there are many reasonable questions that haven’t been addressed at all. We all need real studies generating real data. Not more models manipulating the existing all-too-thin data pool.

  30. I wonder how they are going to tie all this work into the necessary “CO2 is the culprit” – get out of jail free card – need for publication and further funding?

    CO2 is “Evil” is not going to go away. Too much time and effort has been put into this scam because a world wide carbon tax is needed to fund the future global government. To put it bluntly an organized internationally sponsored group is all about pushing the agenda and NOT ABOUT SCIENCE.

    “THEY” are already talking about “Global Governance 2025″ – http://www.dni.gov/nic/PDF_2025/2025_Global_Governance.pdf

    Pascal Lamy, Director, World Trade Organization (WTO) on “Global Governance” http://www.theglobaljournal.net/article/view/56/

    To give you an idea of just how alive and well Climate Change/CO2 tax is look at the article “The Holy Land: the ecological turning point of the three religions” 07/20/2011 – http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/homepage/world-news/detail/articolo/cambiamenti-climatici-climate-change-cambio-climatico-6046/

    “That the three great monotheistic religions in Jerusalem should agree on anything these days, is a miracle. But that they should choose to launch a joint appeal to world leaders on climate change – in other words, on one of the issues that have diplomats from all over the world struggling – is definitely incredible. Yet this is the aim of an initiative that will be presented in Jerusalem on 25 July….

    It is called “Holy Land Declaration on Climate Change” and looks specifically at the International Climate Conference which is to be held in Durban, South Africa, next November. This is a continuation of the meetings held in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun in 2010, both of which terminated without an agreement being reached regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the group commissioned by the UN to monitor the phenomenon, really believes is essential for combating global warming.

    In preparation for Durban, a cartel of organizations of various denominations are acting in different countries around the world to urge religious leaders to fight for the cause…..”

    Some science will undoubtedly come out of this study but it will not go against the “CO2 causes Climate Change” manta needed to further the political agenda.

    Here is another law of science for you: “Politics trumps Truth in Science when Politicians fund Science”

  31. The MJO is a frontier in need of exploration. I like the effort planned in the article and think that it will be money well spent.
    Global AQUA data of daily tropospheric temperature shows interesting patterns and phenomena which I believe are traceable to MJO. The MJO functions in ways we don’t fully grasp, in my opinion. The various questions mentioned in this post

    http://lukewarmplanet.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/aqua-channel-5-and-short-term-temperature-variability/

    will be mostly traced to MJO behavior in later posts. Some of the underlying physical mechanisms may not be clearly understood today but may be so after the research.
    On a side note, the daily AQUA data may even provide an opinion on Lindzen’s iris-effect hypothesis.

  32. Gail Combs says on September 24, 2011 at 5:20 am

    I wonder how they are going to tie all this work into the necessary “CO2 is the culprit” – get out of jail free card – need for publication and further funding? …

    Not everything is the product of, or leads to, dark nefarious conspiracies. Some of it is basic research to answer nagging and often basic questions; I think such is the case here … what do you know of “The Madden-Julian Oscillation” (MJO)?

    Maybe you need a pointer to material on MJO:

    http://metofis.rsmas.miami.edu/~czhang/publications/MJOrev.pdf

    So, besides continuing to ‘ride’ the usual bogey-man ‘hobby horses’ (including “Global Governance”, WTO, Vatican-based conspiracies), how have you been doing?

    .

  33. I choked on a snaugh (snort + laugh) when I got to this:

    The U.S. researchers are collaborating heavily with their Maldivian hosts. The Maldives Meteorological Service is providing local weather knowledge, meeting and operations space, and facilities; the researchers in turn will offer training on radar and other instrumentation to local meteorologists.

    In between policing the beaches for inconvenient overage trees, and watching coral grow.

  34. The image of the Indian Ocean explains all. It’s obviously a water trampoline for the Heat God, MoJO. His bouncing sends waves out all around the globe.

  35. “This disturbance, which originates in the equatorial Indian Ocean roughly every 30 to 90 days, is part of the Asian and Australian monsoons and can enhance hurricane activity in the northeast Pacific and Gulf of Mexico, trigger torrential rainfall along the west coast of North America and affect the onset of El Niño.”

    LOL

    “The Madden-Julian Oscillation has a huge impact all over the globe,” says Chidong Zhang of the University of Miami, DYNAMO’s chief scientist. “It connects weather and climate, and it is important to forecasting.”

    Will ENSO be dethroned? Another deus ex machina supposed to explain it all while of course ignoring the basics of tropospheric circulation…

  36. Why are they only going to study the MJO for six months? Are the effect of the MJO only important in the NH autumn and winter and SH spring and summer? Doesn’t anyone care about how it effects the NH spring and summer? Are they going to assume that they can just mirror image the SH spring/summer results onto the NH and vise versa?

    It seems to me that they should be studying these effects for at least a year (and probably multiple decades) in order to get a robust understanding of the MJO. But I guess those will be studies will be called for in the papers from this study.

    BTW, can’t most of the data needed to understand the MJO be provided by satellites and remote sensing? Can’t the data be shared via that “new-fangled” inter-web thingy I keep hearing so much about? Why do so many scientists need to be “on-site” to study this event? Inquiring minds want to know? :)

Comments are closed.