This study examined multidecadal changes in the amplitude of the boreal-winter Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) over the twentieth century using two century-long reanalysis datasets (20CR and ERA-20C). Both revealed reasonable MJO variability compared to other state-of-the-art reanalysis datasets. We detected pronounced multidecadal variations along with an increasing trend in MJO amplitude during the period 1900–2009 in both datasets, although this linear trend was less significant in the reconstructed MJO index proposed by Oliver and Thompson. The two twentieth-century reanalysis datasets and the Oliver–Thompson MJO index consistently showed the intensified amplitude of MJO precipitation and circulation in the later decades (1970–99) compared to the earlier decades (1920–49). The most significant enhancement of MJO precipitation in the later decades appeared over the western Pacific warm pool. To understand the mechanisms controlling the changes in western Pacific MJO precipitation amplitude over the twentieth century, we diagnosed the moisture budget equation. The enhanced MJO precipitation variability in the later decades mainly came from increased moisture associated with a strengthened low-level convergence anomaly working on background mean moisture [(q¯V)]. Further diagnosis showed that the effect of anomalous circulation (∇ ⋅ V′) change on the MJO precipitation amplitude change over the twentieth century was about an order larger than that of mean moisture (q¯) change, different from the mechanisms (i.e., increased gradient of q¯) responsible for the intensified MJO precipitation amplitude under future warmer climate. The enhanced MJO circulation anomalies during 1970–99 may be caused by an enhanced diabatic heating anomaly, offset partly by the increased mean static stability.

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