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Published October 2011 | Published
Journal Article Open

Vertical Diabatic Heating Structure of the MJO: Intercomparison between Recent Reanalyses and TRMM Estimates


Capitalizing on recently released reanalysis datasets and diabatic heating estimates based on Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the authors have conducted a composite analysis of vertical anomalous heating structures associated with the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). Because diabatic heating lies at the heart of prevailing MJO theories, the intention of this effort is to provide new insights into the fundamental physics of the MJO. However, some discrepancies in the composite vertical MJO heating profiles are noted among the datasets, particularly between three reanalyses and three TRMM estimates. A westward tilting with altitude in the vertical heating structure of the MJO is clearly evident during its eastward propagation based on three reanalysis datasets, which is particularly pronounced when the MJO migrates from the equatorial eastern Indian Ocean (EEIO) to the western Pacific (WP). In contrast, this vertical tilt in heating structure is not readily seen in the three TRMM products. Moreover, a transition from a shallow to deep heating structure associated with the MJO is clearly evident in a pressure–time plot over both the EEIO and WP in three reanalysis datasets. Although this vertical heating structure transition is detectable over the WP in two TRMM products, it is weakly defined in another dataset over the WP and in all three TRMM datasets over the EEIO. The vertical structures of radiative heating QR associated with the MJO are also analyzed based on TRMM and two reanalysis datasets. A westward vertical tilt in QR is apparent in all these datasets: that is, the low-level QR is largely in phase of convection, whereas QR in the upper troposphere lags the maximum convection. The results also suggest a potentially important role of radiative heating for the MJO, particularly over the Indian Ocean. Caveats in heating estimates based on both the reanalysis datasets and TRMM are briefly discussed.

Additional Information

© 2011 American Meteorological Society. Manuscript received 23 September 2010, in final form 5 April 2011. We thank anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Thanks also to Terry Kubar for his comments and editorial assistance. The first author (XJ) acknowledges support by NSF Climate and Large-Scale Dynamics under Award ATM-0934285 and NOAA CPPA program under Award NA09OAR4310191. W. Olson and T. L'Ecuyer acknowledge support by NASA NEWS program. The Wheeler–Hendon MJO index was downloaded from the Australian BMRC website. We also thank Prof. B. Wang for insightful discussion. Part of this research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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