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Triggered Convection, Gravity Waves, and the MJO: A Shallow-Water Model

Yang, Da and Ingersoll, Andrew P. (2013) Triggered Convection, Gravity Waves, and the MJO: A Shallow-Water Model. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 70 (8). pp. 2476-2486. ISSN 0022-4928.

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The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) is the dominant mode of intraseasonal variability in the tropics. Despite its primary importance, a generally accepted theory that accounts for fundamental features of the MJO, including its propagation speed, planetary horizontal scale, multiscale features, and quadrupole structures, remains elusive. In this study, the authors use a shallow-water model to simulate the MJO. In this model, convection is parameterized as a short-duration localized mass source and is triggered when the layer thickness falls below a critical value. Radiation is parameterized as a steady uniform mass sink. The following MJO-like signals are observed in the simulations: 1) slow eastward-propagating large-scale disturbances, which show up as low-frequency, low-wavenumber features with eastward propagation in the spectral domain, 2) multiscale structures in the time–longitude (Hovmöller) domain, and 3) quadrupole vortex structures in the longitude–latitude (map view) domain. The authors propose that the simulated MJO signal is an interference pattern of westward and eastward inertia–gravity (WIG and EIG) waves. Its propagation speed is half of the speed difference between the WIG and EIG waves. The horizontal scale of its large-scale envelope is determined by the bandwidth of the excited waves, and the bandwidth is controlled by the number density of convection events. In this model, convection events trigger other convection events, thereby aggregating into large-scale structures, but there is no feedback of the large-scale structures onto the convection events. The results suggest that the MJO is not so much a low-frequency wave, in which convection acts as a quasi-equilibrium adjustment, but is more a pattern of high-frequency waves that interact directly with the convection.

Item Type:Article
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Ingersoll, Andrew P.0000-0002-2035-9198
Additional Information:© 2013 American Meteorological Society. Manuscript received 13 September 2012, in final form 18 February 2013. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Da Yang was supported by the Earle C. Anthony Professor of Planetary Science Research Pool and the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences Davidow Fund of the California Institute of Technology. He is currently supported by the Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Program of the National Science Foundation. We thank these organizations for their support.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Earle C. Anthony Professor of Planetary Science Research PoolUNSPECIFIED
Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences Davidow FundUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Conditional instability; Convection; Inertia-gravity waves; Madden-Julian oscillation; Convective parameterization; Intraseasonal variability
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130830-102836830
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Official Citation:Yang, Da, Andrew P. Ingersoll, 2013: Triggered Convection, Gravity Waves, and the MJO: A Shallow-Water Model. J. Atmos. Sci., 70, 2476–2486. doi:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:41025
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:30 Aug 2013 17:43
Last Modified:14 Sep 2017 22:19

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