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The Role of Moisture–Convection Feedbacks in Simulating the Madden–Julian Oscillation

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
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Abstract

The sensitivity of a simulated Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) was investigated in the NCAR Community Atmosphere Model 3.1 with the relaxed Arakawa–Schubert convection scheme by analyzing the model’s response to varying the strength of two moisture sensitivity parameters. A higher value of either the minimum entrainment rate or rain evaporation fraction results in increased intraseasonal variability, a more coherent MJO, and enhanced moisture–convection feedbacks in the model. Changes to the mean state are inconsistent between the two methods. Increasing the minimum entrainment leads to a cooler and drier troposphere, whereas increasing the rain evaporation fraction causes warming and moistening. These results suggest that no straightforward correspondence exists between the MJO and the mean humidity, contrary to previous studies.

Analysis of the mean column-integrated and normalized moist static energy (MSE) budget reveals a substantial reduction of gross moist stability (GMS) for increased minimum entrainment, while no significant changes are found for an increased evaporation fraction. However, when considering fluctuations of the normalized MSE budget terms during MJO events, both methods result in negative GMS prior to the deep convective phase of the MJO. Intraseasonal fluctuations of GMS, rather than the mean, appear to be a better diagnostic quantity for testing a model’s ability to produce an MJO.

Corresponding author address: Walter M. Hannah, Dept. of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, 1371 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1371. E-mail: whannah@atmos.colostate.edu

Abstract

The sensitivity of a simulated Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) was investigated in the NCAR Community Atmosphere Model 3.1 with the relaxed Arakawa–Schubert convection scheme by analyzing the model’s response to varying the strength of two moisture sensitivity parameters. A higher value of either the minimum entrainment rate or rain evaporation fraction results in increased intraseasonal variability, a more coherent MJO, and enhanced moisture–convection feedbacks in the model. Changes to the mean state are inconsistent between the two methods. Increasing the minimum entrainment leads to a cooler and drier troposphere, whereas increasing the rain evaporation fraction causes warming and moistening. These results suggest that no straightforward correspondence exists between the MJO and the mean humidity, contrary to previous studies.

Analysis of the mean column-integrated and normalized moist static energy (MSE) budget reveals a substantial reduction of gross moist stability (GMS) for increased minimum entrainment, while no significant changes are found for an increased evaporation fraction. However, when considering fluctuations of the normalized MSE budget terms during MJO events, both methods result in negative GMS prior to the deep convective phase of the MJO. Intraseasonal fluctuations of GMS, rather than the mean, appear to be a better diagnostic quantity for testing a model’s ability to produce an MJO.

Corresponding author address: Walter M. Hannah, Dept. of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, 1371 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1371. E-mail: whannah@atmos.colostate.edu
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