Scale interactions between the MJO and the western Maritime Continent

C.E. Birch, S. Webster, S.C. Peatman, D.J. Parker, A.J. Matthews, Y. Li, M.E. Hassim

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State-of-the-art regional climate model simulations that are able to resolve key mesoscale circulations are used, for the first time, to understand the interaction between the large-scale convective environment of the MJO and processes governing the strong diurnal cycle over the islands of the Maritime Continent (MC). Convection is sustained in the late afternoon just inland of the coasts due to sea breeze convergence. Previous work has shown that the variability in MC rainfall associated with the MJO is manifested in changes to this diurnal cycle; land-based rainfall peaks before the active convective envelope of the MJO reaches the MC, whereas oceanic rainfall rates peak whilst the active envelope resides over the region. The model simulations show that the main controls on oceanic MC rainfall in the early active MJO phases are the large-scale environment and atmospheric stability, followed by high oceanic latent heat flux forced by high near-surface winds in the later active MJO phases. Over land, rainfall peaks before the main convective envelope arrives (in agreement with observations), even though the large-scale convective environment is only moderately favourable for convection. The causes of this early rainfall peak are convective triggers from land-sea breeze circulations that are strong due to high surface insolation and surface heating. During the peak MJO phases cloud cover increases and surface insolation decreases, which weakens the strength of the mesoscale circulations and reduces land-based rainfall, even though the large-scale environment remains favourable for convection at this time. Hence, scale interactions are an essential part of the MJO transition across the MC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2471–2492
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number7
Early online date23 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

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