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Xianan Jiang
Ángel F. Adames
Ming Zhao
Duane Waliser
, and
Eric Maloney


The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) exhibits pronounced seasonality. While it is largely characterized by equatorially eastward propagation during the boreal winter, MJO convection undergoes marked poleward movement over the Asian monsoon region during summer, producing a significant modulation of monsoon rainfall. In classical MJO theories that seek to interpret the distinct seasonality in MJO propagation features, the role of equatorial wave dynamics has been emphasized for its eastward propagation, whereas coupling between MJO convection and the mean monsoon flow is considered essential for its northward propagation. In this study, a unified physical framework based on the moisture mode theory, is offered to explain the seasonality in MJO propagation. Moistening and drying caused by horizontal advection of the lower-tropospheric mean moisture by MJO winds, which was recently found to be critical for the eastward propagation of the winter MJO, is also shown to play a dominant role in operating the northward propagation of the summer MJO. The seasonal variations in the mean moisture pattern largely shape the distinct MJO propagation in different seasons. The critical role of the seasonally varying climatological distribution of moisture for the MJO propagation is further supported by the close association between model skill in representing the MJO propagation and skill at producing the lower-tropospheric mean moisture pattern. This study thus pinpoints an important direction for climate model development for improved MJO representation during all seasons.

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