Propagation of the Madden-Julian Oscillation and scale interaction with the diurnal cycle in a high-resolution GCM

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The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is the chief source of tropical intra-seasonal variability, but is simulated poorly by most state-of-the-art GCMs. Common errors include a lack of eastward propagation at the correct frequency and zonal extent, and too small a ratio of eastward- to westward-propagating variability. Here it is shown that HiGEM, a high-resolution GCM, simulates a very realistic MJO with approximately the correct spatial and temporal scale. Many MJO studies in GCMs are limited to diagnostics which average over a latitude band around the equator, allowing an analysis of the MJO's structure in time and longitude only. In this study a wider range of diagnostics is applied. It is argued that such an approach is necessary for a comprehensive analysis of a model's MJO. The standard analysis of Wheeler and Hendon (Mon Wea Rev 132(8):1917-1932, 2004; WH04) is applied to produce composites, which show a realistic spatial structure in the MJO envelopes but for the timing of the peak precipitation in the inter-tropical convergence zone, which bifurcates the MJO signal. Further diagnostics are developed to analyse the MJO's episodic nature and the "MJO inertia" (the tendency to remain in the same WH04 phase from one day to the next). HiGEM favours phases 2, 3, 6 and 7; has too much MJO inertia; and dies out too frequently in phase 3. Recent research has shown that a key feature of the MJO is its interaction with the diurnal cycle over the Maritime Continent. This interaction is present in HiGEM but is unrealistically weak.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2901-2918
Number of pages18
JournalClimate Dynamics
Early online date15 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


  • HiGEM
  • MJO
  • Maritime Continent
  • Diurnal cycle
  • Diagnostics

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