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Planetary Scale Selection of the Madden–Julian Oscillation

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
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Abstract

Numerical experiments with a 2.5-layer and a 2-level model are conducted to examine the mechanism for the planetary scale selection of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). The strategy here is to examine the evolution of an initial perturbation that has a form of the equatorial Kelvin wave at zonal wavenumbers of 1 to 15. In the presence of a frictional boundary layer, the most unstable mode prefers a short wavelength under a linear heating; but with a nonlinear heating, the zonal wavenumber 1 grows fastest. This differs significantly from a model without the boundary layer, in which neither linear nor nonlinear heating leads to the long wave selection. Thus, the numerical simulations point out the crucial importance of the combined effect of the nonlinear heating and the frictional boundary layer in the MJO planetary scale selection.

The cause of this scale selection under the nonlinear heating is attributed to the distinctive phase speeds between the dry Kelvin wave and the wet Kelvin–Rossby wave couplet. The faster dry Kelvin wave triggered by a convective branch may catch up and suppress another convective branch, which travels ahead of it at the phase speed of the wet Kelvin–Rossby wave couplet if the distance between the two neighboring convective branches is smaller than a critical distance (about 16 000 km). The interference between the dry Kelvin wave and the wet Kelvin–Rossby wave couplet eventually dissipates and “filters out” shorter wavelength perturbations, leading to a longwave selection. The boundary layer plays an important role in destabilizing the MJO through frictional moisture convergences and in retaining the in-phase zonal wind–pressure structure.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Tim Li, Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2525 Correa Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: timli@hawaii.edu

Abstract

Numerical experiments with a 2.5-layer and a 2-level model are conducted to examine the mechanism for the planetary scale selection of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). The strategy here is to examine the evolution of an initial perturbation that has a form of the equatorial Kelvin wave at zonal wavenumbers of 1 to 15. In the presence of a frictional boundary layer, the most unstable mode prefers a short wavelength under a linear heating; but with a nonlinear heating, the zonal wavenumber 1 grows fastest. This differs significantly from a model without the boundary layer, in which neither linear nor nonlinear heating leads to the long wave selection. Thus, the numerical simulations point out the crucial importance of the combined effect of the nonlinear heating and the frictional boundary layer in the MJO planetary scale selection.

The cause of this scale selection under the nonlinear heating is attributed to the distinctive phase speeds between the dry Kelvin wave and the wet Kelvin–Rossby wave couplet. The faster dry Kelvin wave triggered by a convective branch may catch up and suppress another convective branch, which travels ahead of it at the phase speed of the wet Kelvin–Rossby wave couplet if the distance between the two neighboring convective branches is smaller than a critical distance (about 16 000 km). The interference between the dry Kelvin wave and the wet Kelvin–Rossby wave couplet eventually dissipates and “filters out” shorter wavelength perturbations, leading to a longwave selection. The boundary layer plays an important role in destabilizing the MJO through frictional moisture convergences and in retaining the in-phase zonal wind–pressure structure.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Tim Li, Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2525 Correa Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: timli@hawaii.edu

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