Fast and slow Kelvin waves in the Madden-Julian Oscillation of a GCM

Adrian J. Matthews, Julia M. Slingo, Brian J. Hoskins, Peter M. Inness

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The structure of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) in an 1800-day integration of the Hadley Centre Unified Model was analysed, and interpreted within a Kelvin wave framework. The model was forced with constant equinoctial (March) boundary conditions so that a ``clean'' MJO signal could be separated from the effects of the seasonal cycle and forced interannual variability. The simulated MJO was fairly realistic in terms of its large-scale spatial structure and propagation characteristics, although its period of 30 days (corresponding to an average phase speed of 15 \mps) was shorter than that observed. The signal in deep convection was less coherent than in observations, and appeared to move eastward as a sequence of discrete convective anomalies, rather than by a smooth eastward propagation. Both ``fast'' and ``slow'' equatorial Kelvin waves appeared to play an important role in the eastward propagation of the simulated MJO. Enhanced convection over the Indian Ocean was associated with a ``fast'' equatorial Kelvin wave that propagated eastward at 55 m s-1 over the Pacific. On reaching the west coast of South America, a component of this Kelvin wave propagated northward and southward as a trapped wave along the mountain ranges of Central America and the Andes, in agreement with observations. The anomalous surface easterlies over the tropical eastern Pacific associated with this fast Kelvin wave enhanced the climatological mean easterlies and led to positive convective anomalies over the eastern Pacific consistent with the WISHE mechanism. However, WISHE was not able to account for the eastward development of the convective anomalies over the Indian Ocean/western Pacific region. By splitting the equatorial divergence anomalies of the simulated MJO into their du/dx and dv/dy components, the role of Kelvin wave dynamics in the ``slow'' (15 m s-1) average eastward propagation of the simulated MJO was examined. Although the two components were of comparable magnitude, the \dudx\ component exhibited a pronounced eastward propagation which tended to be disrupted by the \dvdy\ component, thus supporting the paradigm of an underlying, but strongly modified, Kelvin wave mechanism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1473-1498
Number of pages26
JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Issue number557
Publication statusPublished - 1999

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