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Naoko Sakaeda
,
Scott W. Powell
,
Juliana Dias
, and
George N. Kiladis

Abstract

This study uses high-resolution rainfall estimates from the S-Polka radar during the DYNAMO field campaign to examine variability of the diurnal cycle of rainfall associated with MJO convection over the Indian Ocean. Two types of diurnal rainfall peaks were found: 1) a late afternoon rainfall peak associated with the diurnal peak in sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and surface fluxes and 2) an early to late morning rainfall peak associated with increased low-tropospheric moisture. Both peaks appear during the MJO suppressed phase, which tends to have stronger SST warming in the afternoon, while the morning peak is dominant during the MJO enhanced phase. The morning peak occurs on average at 0000–0300 LST during the MJO suppressed phase, while it is delayed until 0400–0800 LST during the MJO enhanced phase. This delay partly results from an increased upscale growth of deep convection to broader stratiform rain regions during the MJO enhanced phase. During the MJO suppressed phase, rainfall is dominated by deep and isolated convective cells that are short-lived and peak in association with either the afternoon SST warming or nocturnal moisture increase. This study demonstrates that knowledge of the evolution of cloud and rain types is critical to explaining the diurnal cycle of rainfall and its variability. Some insights into the role of the complex interactions between radiation, moisture, and clouds in driving the diurnal cycle of rainfall are also discussed.

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Yuan-Ming Cheng
,
Stefan Tulich
,
George N. Kiladis
, and
Juliana Dias

Abstract

Observational evidence of two extratropical pathways to forcing tropical convective disturbances is documented through a statistical analysis of satellite-derived OLR and ERA5 reanalysis. The forcing mechanism and the resulting disturbances are found to strongly depend on the structure of the background zonal wind. Although Rossby wave propagation is prohibited in easterlies, modeling studies have shown that extratropical forcing can still excite equatorial waves through resonance between the tropics and extratropics. Here this “remote” forcing pathway is investigated for the first time in the context of convectively coupled Kelvin waves over the tropical Pacific during northern summer. The extratropical forcing is manifested by eddy momentum flux convergence that arises when extratropical eddies propagate into the subtropics and encounter their critical line. This nonlinear forcing has similar wavenumbers and frequencies with Kelvin waves and excites them by projecting onto their meridional eigenstructure in zonal wind, as a form of resonance. This resonance is also evidenced by a momentum budget analysis, which reveals the nonlinear forcing term is essential for maintenance of the waves, while the remaining linear terms are essential for propagation. In contrast, the “local” pathway of extratropical forcing entails the presence of a westerly duct during northern winter that permits Rossby waves to propagate into the equatorial east Pacific, while precluding any sort of resonance with Kelvin waves due to Doppler shifting effects. The intruding disturbances primarily excite tropical “cloud plumes” through quasigeostrophic forcing, while maintaining their extratropical nature. This study demonstrates the multiple roles of the extratropics in forcing in tropical circulations and illuminates how tropical–extratropical interactions and extratropical basic states can provide be a source of predictability at the S2S time scale.

Significance Statement

This study seeks to understand how circulations in the midlatitudes excite the weather systems in the tropics. Results show that the mechanisms, as well as the types of tropical weather systems excited, are strongly dependent on the mean large-scale wind structure. In particular, when the large-scale wind blows from east to west, a special type of eastward-moving tropical weather system, the Kelvin wave, is excited owing to its resonance with remote eastward-moving weather systems in the extratropics. On the contrary, when the average wind blows from west to east, midlatitude systems are observed to intrude into the lower latitudes and directly force tropical convection, the cloud plumes, while maintaining their extratropical nature. These results speak to how the midlatitudes can excite distinct types of tropical weather systems under different climatological wind regimes. Understanding these tropical weather systems and their interactions with the midlatitudes may ultimately help to improve predictions of weather beyond 2 weeks.

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Juliana Dias
,
Stefan N. Tulich
,
Maria Gehne
, and
George N. Kiladis

Abstract

A set of 30-day reforecast experiments, focused on the Northern Hemisphere (NH) cool season (November–March), is performed to quantify the remote impacts of tropical forecast errors on the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Global Forecast System (GFS). The approach is to nudge the model toward reanalyses in the tropics and then measure the change in skill at higher latitudes as a function of lead time. In agreement with previous analogous studies, results show that midlatitude predictions tend to be improved in association with reducing tropical forecast errors during weeks 2–4, particularly over the North Pacific and western North America, where gains in subseasonal precipitation anomaly pattern correlations are substantial. It is also found that tropical nudging is more effective at improving NH subseasonal predictions in cases where skill is relatively low in the control reforecast, whereas it tends to improve fewer cases that are already relatively skillful. By testing various tropical nudging configurations, it is shown that tropical circulation errors play a primary role in the remote modulation of predictive skill. A time-dependent analysis suggests a roughly 1-week lag between a decrease in tropical errors and an increase in NH predictive skill. A combined tropical nudging and conditional skill analysis indicates that improved Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) predictions throughout its life cycle could improve weeks 3–4 NH precipitation predictions.

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Maria Gehne
,
Brandon Wolding
,
Juliana Dias
, and
George N. Kiladis

Abstract

Tropical precipitation and circulation are often coupled and span a vast spectrum of scales from a few to several thousands of kilometers and from hours to weeks. Current operational numerical weather prediction (NWP) models struggle with representing the full range of scales of tropical phenomena. Synoptic to planetary scales are of particular importance because improved skill in the representation of tropical larger-scale features such as convectively coupled equatorial waves (CCEWs) has the potential to reduce forecast error propagation from the tropics to the midlatitudes. Here we introduce diagnostics from a recently developed tropical variability diagnostics toolbox, where we focus on two recent versions of NOAA’s Unified Forecast System (UFS): operational GFSv15 forecasts and experimental GFSv16 forecasts from April to October 2020. The diagnostics include space–time coherence spectra to identify preferred scales of coupling between circulation and precipitation, pattern correlations of Hovmöller diagrams to assess model skill in zonal propagation of precipitating features, CCEW skill assessment, plus a diagnostic aimed at evaluating moisture–convection coupling in the tropics. Results show that the GFSv16 forecasts are slightly more realistic than GFSv15 in their coherence between precipitation and model dynamics at synoptic to planetary scales, with modest improvements in moisture convection coupling. However, this slightly improved performance does not necessarily translate to improvements in traditional precipitation skill scores. The results highlight the utility of these diagnostics in the pursuit of better understanding of NWP model performance in the tropics, while also demonstrating the challenges in translating model advancements into improved skill.

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Brandon Wolding
,
Juliana Dias
,
George Kiladis
,
Eric Maloney
, and
Mark Branson

Abstract

The exponential increase in precipitation with increasing column saturation fraction (CSF) is used to investigate the role of moisture in convective coupling. This simple empirical relationship between precipitation and CSF is shown to capture nearly all MJO-related variability in TRMM precipitation, ~80% of equatorial Rossby wave–related variability, and ~75% of east Pacific easterly wave–related variability. In contrast, this empirical relationship only captures roughly half of TRMM precipitation variability associated with Kelvin waves, African easterly waves, and mixed Rossby–gravity waves, suggesting coupling mechanisms other than moisture are playing leading roles in these phenomena. These latter phenomena have strong adiabatically forced vertical motions that could reduce static stability and convective inhibition while simultaneously moistening, creating a more favorable convective environment. Cross-spectra of precipitation and column-integrated dry static energy show enhanced coherence and an out-of-phase relationship in the Kelvin wave, mixed Rossby–gravity wave, and eastward inertio-gravity wave bands, supporting this narrative. The cooperative modulation of precipitation by moisture and temperature anomalies is shown to shorten the convective adjustment time scale (i.e., time scale by which moisture and precipitation are relaxed toward their “background” state) of these phenomena. Speeding the removal of moisture anomalies relative to that of temperature anomalies may allow the latter to assume a more important role in driving moist static energy fluctuations, helping promote the gravity wave character of these phenomena.

Free access
Victor C. Mayta
,
George N. Kiladis
,
Juliana Dias
,
Pedro L. Silva Dias
, and
Maria Gehne

Abstract

Rainfall over tropical South America is known to be modulated by convectively coupled Kelvin waves (CCKWs). In this work, the origin and dynamical features of South American Kelvin waves are revisited using satellite-observed brightness temperature, radiosonde, and reanalysis datasets. Two main types of CCKWs over the Amazon are considered: Kelvin waves with a Pacific precursor, and Kelvin waves with a precursor originating over South America. Amazonian CCKWs associated with a preexisting Kelvin convection in the eastern Pacific account for about 35% of the total events. The cases with South American precursors are associated with either pressure surges in the western Amazon from extratropical wave train activity, responsible for 40% of the total events, or “in situ” convection that locally excites CCKWs, accounting for the remaining 25%. The analysis also suggests that CCKWs associated with different precursors are sensitive to Pacific sea surface temperature. Kelvin wave events with a Pacific precursor are more common during ENSO warm events, while Kelvin waves with extratropical South American precursors show stronger activity during La Niña events. This study also explores other triggering mechanisms of CCKWs over the Amazon. These mechanisms are associated with 1) extratropical Rossby wave trains not necessarily of extratropical South American origin; 2) CCKWs initiated in response to the presence of the southern and/or double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in the eastern Pacific Ocean; and 3) possible interaction between CCKWs and other equatorial waves in the Amazon.

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Juliana Dias
,
Maria Gehne
,
George N. Kiladis
,
Naoko Sakaeda
,
Peter Bechtold
, and
Thomas Haiden

Abstract

Despite decades of research on the role of moist convective processes in large-scale tropical dynamics, tropical forecast skill in operational models is still deficient when compared to the extratropics, even at short lead times. Here we compare tropical and Northern Hemisphere (NH) forecast skill for quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPFs) in the NCEP Global Forecast System (GFS) and ECMWF Integrated Forecast System (IFS) during January 2015–March 2016. Results reveal that, in general, initial conditions are reasonably well estimated in both forecast systems, as indicated by relatively good skill scores for the 6–24-h forecasts. However, overall, tropical QPF forecasts in both systems are not considered useful by typical metrics much beyond 4 days. To quantify the relationship between QPF and dynamical skill, space–time spectra and coherence of rainfall and divergence fields are calculated. It is shown that while tropical variability is too weak in both models, the IFS is more skillful in propagating tropical waves for longer lead times. In agreement with past studies demonstrating that extratropical skill is partially drawn from the tropics, a comparison of daily skill in the tropics versus NH suggests that in both models NH forecast skill at lead times beyond day 3 is enhanced by tropical skill in the first couple of days. As shown in previous work, this study indicates that the differences in physics used in each system, in particular, how moist convective processes are coupled to the large-scale flow through these parameterizations, appear as a major source of tropical forecast errors.

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Brandon Wolding
,
Juliana Dias
,
George Kiladis
,
Fiaz Ahmed
,
Scott W. Powell
,
Eric Maloney
, and
Mark Branson

Abstract

Realistically representing the multiscale interactions between moisture and tropical convection remains an ongoing challenge for weather prediction and climate models. In this study, we revisit the relationship between precipitation and column saturation fraction (CSF) by investigating their tendencies in CSF–precipitation space using satellite and radar observations, as well as reanalysis. A well-known, roughly exponential increase in precipitation occurs as CSF increases above a “critical point,” which acts as an attractor in CSF–precipitation space. Each movement away from and subsequent return toward the attractor results in a small net change of the coupled system, causing it to evolve in a cyclical fashion around the attractor. This cyclical evolution is characterized by shallow and convective precipitation progressively moistening the environment and strengthening convection, stratiform precipitation progressively weakening convection, and drying in the nonprecipitating and lightly precipitation regime. This behavior is evident across a range of spatiotemporal scales, suggesting that shortcomings in model representation of the joint evolution of convection and large-scale moisture will negatively impact a broad range of spatiotemporal scales. Novel process-level diagnostics indicate that several models, all implementing versions of the Zhang–McFarlane deep convective parameterization, exhibit unrealistic coupling between column moisture and convection.

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Lisa Bengtsson
,
Luc Gerard
,
Jongil Han
,
Maria Gehne
,
Wei Li
, and
Juliana Dias

Abstract

A prognostic closure is introduced to, and evaluated in, NOAA’s Unified Forecast System. The closure addresses aspects that are not commonly represented in traditional cumulus convection parameterizations, and it departs from the previous assumptions of a negligible subgrid area coverage and statistical quasi-equilibrium at steady state, the latter of which becomes invalid at higher resolution. The new parameterization introduces a prognostic evolution of the convective updraft area fraction based on a moisture budget, and, together with the buoyancy-driven updraft vertical velocity, it completes the cloud-base mass flux. In addition, the new closure addresses stochasticity and includes a representation of subgrid convective organization using cellular automata as well as scale-adaptive considerations. The new cumulus convection closure shows potential for improved Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) prediction. In our simulations we observe better propagation, amplitude, and phase of the MJO in a case study relative to the control simulation. This improvement can be partly attributed to a closer coupling between low-level moisture flux convergence and precipitation as revealed by a space–time coherence spectrum. In addition, we find that enhanced organization feedback representation and stochastic effects, represented using cellular automata, further enhance the amplitude and propagation of the MJO, and they provide realistic uncertainty estimates of convectively coupled equatorial waves at seasonal time scales. The scale-adaptive behavior of the scheme is also studied by running the global model with 25-, 13-, 9-, and 3-km grid spacing. It is found that the convective area fraction and the convective updraft velocity are both scale adaptive, leading to a reduction of subgrid convective precipitation in the higher-resolution simulations.

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George N. Kiladis
,
Juliana Dias
,
Katherine H. Straub
,
Matthew C. Wheeler
,
Stefan N. Tulich
,
Kazuyoshi Kikuchi
,
Klaus M. Weickmann
, and
Michael J. Ventrice

Abstract

Two univariate indices of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) based on outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) are developed to track the convective component of the MJO while taking into account the seasonal cycle. These are compared with the all-season Real-time Multivariate MJO (RMM) index of Wheeler and Hendon derived from a multivariate EOF of circulation and OLR. The gross features of the OLR and circulation of composite MJOs are similar regardless of the index, although RMM is characterized by stronger circulation. Diversity in the amplitude and phase of individual MJO events between the indices is much more evident; this is demonstrated using examples from the Dynamics of the Madden–Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) field campaign and the Year of Tropical Convection (YOTC) virtual campaign. The use of different indices can lead to quite disparate conclusions concerning MJO timing and strength, and even as to whether or not an MJO has occurred. A disadvantage of using daily OLR as an EOF basis is that it is a much noisier field than the large-scale circulation, and filtering is necessary to obtain stable results through the annual cycle. While a drawback of filtering is that it cannot be done in real time, a reasonable approximation to the original fully filtered index can be obtained by following an endpoint smoothing method. When the convective signal is of primary interest, the authors advocate the use of satellite-based metrics for retrospective analysis of the MJO for individual cases, as well as for the analysis of model skill in initiating and evolving the MJO.

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