Dynamical ocean forcing of the Madden-Julian Oscillation at lead times of up to five months

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


We show that a simple three-dimensional ocean model linearised about a resting basic state can accurately simulate the dynamical ocean response to wind forcing by the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). This includes the propagation of equatorial waves in the Indian Ocean, from the generation of oceanic equatorial Kelvin waves to the arrival of downwelling oceanic equatorial Rossby waves in the western Indian Ocean, where they have been shown to trigger MJO convective activity. Simulations with idealised wind forcing suggest that the latitudinal width of this forcing plays a crucial role in determining the potential for such feedbacks. Forcing the model with composite MJO winds accurately captures the global ocean response, demonstrating that the observed ocean dynamical response to the MJO can be interpreted as a linear response to surface wind forcing. The model is then applied to study “primary” Madden-Julian events, which are not immediately preceded by any MJO activity nor by any apparent atmospheric triggers, but have been shown to coincide with the arrival of downwelling oceanic equatorial Rossby waves. Case study simulations show how this oceanic equatorial Rossby wave activity is partly forced by reflection of an oceanic equatorial Kelvin wave triggered by a westerly wind burst 140 days previously, and partly directly forced by easterly wind stress anomalies around 40 days prior to the event. This suggests predictability for primary Madden-Julian events on times scales of up to five months, following the re-emergence of oceanic anomalies forced by winds almost half a year earlier.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2824-2842
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Climate
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Cite this