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Interactions between the Madden-Julian oscillation and mesoscale to global scale phenomena




Toms, Benjamin A., author
van den Heever, Susan C., advisor
Barnes, Elizabeth A., committee member
Maloney, Eric D., committee member
Cooley, Daniel, committee member

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The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) influences and interacts with atmospheric phenomena across the globe, from the tropics to the poles. In this two-part study, the interactions of the MJO with other phenomena across a broad range of scales are considered, including mesoscale convective structures within the tropics and global teleconnection patterns. While the two studies are distinct in the scales of the interactions they discuss, each highlights an aspect of the importance of interactions between the MJO and variability across a broad range of scales within the climate system. The study of such cross-scale interactions is important for understanding our climate system, as these interactions can transfer energy between phenomena of starkly different spatial and temporal scales. Part one of the study uses a cloud-resolving model, the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System, to consider the relationship between mesoscale convective structures within the Indo-Pacific region and the regional, intraseasonal anomalies associated with the MJO. The simulation captures the entirety of a canonical boreal summertime MJO event, spanning 45 days in July and August of 2016, during which the convective anomaly associated with the MJO propagated over the Maritime Continent. The convective cloud structures, or cells, within the simulation were tracked and logged according to their location relative to the regional convective anomaly of the MJO. Using both spectral analysis and phase compositing, it was found that a progressive relationship exists between the boreal summertime MJO and mesoscale deep convective structures within the Indo-Pacific region, specifically within the convectively enhanced region of the MJO, as follows: increased cell longevity in the initial phases of the MJO, followed by increased cell number in the intermediate phases, progressing into increased cell expanse in the terminal phases. This progressive relationship is connected back to the low-frequency atmospheric response to the MJO. It is suggested that the bulk thermodynamic and kinematic anomalies of the MJO are closely related to the convective cell expanse and longevity, although the number of convective cells appears to be tied to another source of variability not identified within this study. These findings emphasize that while the MJO is commonly defined as an intraseasonal-scale convective anomaly, it is also intrinsically tied to the mesoscale variability of the convective systems that constitute its existence. The second part of the study quantifies the prevalence of the MJO within the overall climate system, along with the dependence of its teleconnections on variability in another tropical phenomena on a larger scale than itself. It is well known that the MJO exhibits pronounced seasonality in its tropical and global signature, and recent research has suggested that its tropical structure also depends on the state of the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO). We therefore first quantify the relationship between 300-mb geopotential anomalies and the MJO across the globe, then test the dependence of the relationship on both the meteorological season and the QBO phase using a derivative of cross-spectral analysis, magnitude-squared coherence Coh2. It is found that the global upper-tropospheric signature of the MJO exhibits pronounced seasonality, but also that the QBO significantly modulates the upper-tropospheric tropical and extratropical anomalies associated with the MJO. Globally, variability in upper tropospheric geopotential linked to the MJO is maximized during the boreal summertime and wintertime of easterly QBO phases, which is consistent with previous research that has shown easterly QBO phases to enhance the persistence of tropical convection associated with the MJO. Additional features are identified, such as the global maximum in upper-tropospheric variability associated with the MJO occurring during boreal summertime, rather than boreal wintertime. Overall, the MJO explains seven to thirteen percent of intraseasonal atmospheric variability in 300-mb geopotential, depending on season and QBO phase. These results highlight the importance of considering the phase of the QBO in analyses related to either global or local impacts of the MJO, along with the importance of cross-scale relationships, such as those between the MJO and QBO, in governing the coupling between the MJO and teleconnections across the globe. This thesis considers the relationship between the MJO and processes that operate on both longer and shorter timescales than itself, including tropical convection and the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation. In doing so, this work highlights the importance of considering relationships between the MJO and atmospheric phenomena on different spatial and temporal scales and with origins distinct from the MJO itself. While theories exist describing the MJO as its own distinct entity, this research corroborates the idea that it is at its core fundamentally linked to the rest of the climate system, both modulating and being modulated by a broad range of atmospheric processes.


2019 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

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cloud resolving modeling
Madden-Julian oscillation


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