AbstractA linear wave theory for the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), previously developed by Sobel and Maloney, is extended upon in this study. In this treatment, column moisture is the only prognostic variable and the horizontal wind is diagnosed as the forced Kelvin and Rossby wave responses to an equatorial heat source/sink. Unlike the original framework, the meridional and vertical structure of the basic equations is treated explicitly, and values of several key model parameters are adjusted, based on observations. A dispersion relation is derived that adequately describes the MJO’s signal in the wavenumber–frequency spectrum and defines the MJO as a dispersive equatorial moist wave with a westward group velocity. On the basis of linear regression analysis of satellite and reanalysis data, it is estimated that the MJO’s group velocity is ~40% as large as its phase speed. This dispersion is the result of the anomalous winds in the wave modulating the mean distribution of moisture such that the moisture anomaly propagates eastward while wave energy propagates westward. The moist wave grows through feedbacks involving moisture, clouds, and radiation and is damped by the advection of moisture associated with the Rossby wave. Additionally, a zonal wavenumber dependence is found in cloud–radiation feedbacks that cause growth to be strongest at planetary scales. These results suggest that this wavenumber dependence arises from the nonlocal nature of cloud–radiation feedbacks; that is, anomalous convection spreads upper-level clouds and reduces radiative cooling over an extensive area surrounding the anomalous precipitation.
Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences – American Meteorological Society
Published: Mar 22, 2016
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