The Madden-Julian Oscillation Recorded in Early Observations from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM)

Hirohiko Masunaga, Tristan S. L'Ecuyer, and Christian D. Kummerow

Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado


A satellite data analysis is performed to explore the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) focusing on the potential roles of the equatorial Rossby (ER) and Kelvin waves. Measurements from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR) and Visible/Infrared Scanner (VIRS) are analyzed in the frequency–wavenumber domain to identify and ultimately filter primary low-frequency modes in the Tropics. The space–time spectrum of deep-storm fraction estimated by PR and VIRS exhibits notable Kelvin wave signals at wavenumbers 5–8, a distinct MJO peak at wavenumbers 1–7 and periods of about 40 days, and a signal corresponding to the ER wave. These modes are separately filtered to study the individual modes and possible relationship among them in the time–longitude space. In 10 cases analyzed here, an MJO event is often collocated with a group of consecutive Kelvin waves as well as an intruding ER wave accompanied with the occasional onset of a stationary convective phase. The spatial and temporal relationship between the MJO and Kelvin wave is clearly visible in a lag composite diagram, while the ubiquity of the ER wave leads to a less pronounced relation between the MJO and ER wave. A case study based on the Geostationary Meteorological Satellite (GMS) imagery together with associated dynamic field captures the substructure of the planetary-scale waves. A cross-correlation analysis confirms the MJO-related cycle that involves surface and atmospheric parameters such as sea surface temperature, water vapor, low clouds, shallow convection, and near-surface wind as proposed in past studies. The findings suggest the possibility that a sequence of convective events coupled with the linear waves may play a critical role in MJO propagation. An intraseasonal radiative–hydrological cycle inherent in the local thermodynamic conditions could be also a potential factor responsible for the MJO by loosely modulating the envelope of the entire propagation system.