A local-to-large scale view of Maritime Continent rainfall: Control by ENSO, MJO and equatorial waves

Simon C. Peatman, Juliane Schwendike, Cathryn E. Birch, John H. Marsham, Adrian J. Matthews, Gui-Ying Yang

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22 Citations (Scopus)
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The canonical view of the Maritime Continent (MC) diurnal cycle is deep convection occurring over land during the afternoon and evening, tending to propagate offshore overnight. However, there is considerable day-to-day variability in the convection, and the mechanism of the offshore propagation is not well understood. We test the hypothesis that large-scale drivers such as ENSO, the MJO, and equatorial waves, through their modification of the local circulation, can modify the direction or strength of the propagation, or prevent the deep convection from triggering in the first place. Taking a local-to-large scale approach, we use in situ observations, satellite data, and reanalyses for five MC coastal regions, and show that the occurrence of the diurnal convection and its offshore propagation is closely tied to coastal wind regimes that we define using the k-means cluster algorithm. Strong prevailing onshore winds are associated with a suppressed diurnal cycle of precipitation, while prevailing offshore winds are associated with an active diurnal cycle, offshore propagation of convection, and a greater risk of extreme rainfall. ENSO, the MJO, equatorial Rossby waves, and westward mixed Rossby–gravity waves have varying levels of control over which coastal wind regime occurs, and therefore on precipitation, depending on the MC coastline in question. The large-scale drivers associated with dry and wet regimes are summarized for each location as a reference for forecasters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8933-8953
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number22
Early online date13 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • Clustering
  • Diurnal effects
  • ENSO
  • Intraseasonal variability
  • Madden-Julian oscillation
  • Maritime Continent
  • Precipitation
  • Radiosonde/rawinsonde observations
  • Rossby waves
  • Sea breezes

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