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Published November 15, 2009 | Published
Journal Article Open

Vertical Heating Structures Associated with the MJO as Characterized by TRMM Estimates, ECMWF Reanalyses, and Forecasts: A Case Study during 1998/99 Winter


The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) is a fundamental mode of the tropical atmosphere variability that exerts significant influence on global climate and weather systems. Current global circulation models, unfortunately, are incapable of robustly representing this form of variability. Meanwhile, a well-accepted and comprehensive theory for the MJO is still elusive. To help address this challenge, recent emphasis has been placed on characterizing the vertical structures of the MJO. In this study, the authors analyze vertical heating structures by utilizing recently updated heating estimates based on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) from two different latent heating estimates and one radiative heating estimate. Heating structures from two different versions of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) reanalyses/forecasts are also examined. Because of the limited period of available datasets at the time of this study, the authors focus on the winter season from October 1998 to March 1999. The results suggest that diabatic heating associated with the MJO convection in the ECMWF outputs exhibits much stronger amplitude and deeper structures than that in the TRMM estimates over the equatorial eastern Indian Ocean and western Pacific. Further analysis illustrates that this difference might be due to stronger convective and weaker stratiform components in the ECMWF estimates relative to the TRMM estimates, with the latter suggesting a comparable contribution by the stratiform and convective counterparts in contributing to the total rain rate. Based on the TRMM estimates, it is also illustrated that the stratiform fraction of total rain rate varies with the evolution of the MJO. Stratiform rain ratio over the Indian Ocean is found to be 5% above (below) average for the disturbed (suppressed) phase of the MJO. The results are discussed with respect to whether these heating estimates provide enough convergent information to have implications on theories of the MJO and whether they can help validate global weather and climate models.

Additional Information

© 2009 American Meteorological Society. Manuscript received 23 January 2009, in final form 6 June 2009. We thank Drs. A. Del Genio and X. Fu and anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We also thank W. K.-M. Lau and J. Wu for processing the TRMM/CSH Q1 datasets. This research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with NASA. The TRMM/TRAIN Q1 2 QR and QR datasets were generated with the support of NASA NEWS research Grants NNG06GC99G and NNG06GC46G, respectively.

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