BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

How Multiscale Interactions Affect Large Tropical Convection Systems
Published: November 23, 2015
Posted: May 06, 2016

The Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO)—a continent-sized cyclic pattern of rainy and dry weather moving slowly eastward across the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans—is strongly affected by seasonal and year-to-year sea-surface temperature (SST) variations, yet MJO drivers and variability remain a subject of uncertainty and ongoing research. A recent Department of Energy-supported study explored how MJO is impacted by atmospheric interactions across a wide range of space-time scales. The superparameterized Community Atmosphere Model (SPCAM), a modified climate model using a sophisticated approach to explicitly simulate tropical convective clouds fundamental to MJO, is used to explore MJO response to anomalies in seasonal SST distributions associated with the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD). The simulations demonstrate critical new findings: (1) SPCAM reproduces the observed disruption on the MJO signal as it crosses Indonesia, (2) MJO disruption is linked to circulation and moisture anomalies on seasonal time scales as well as variations driven by atmospheric eddies that are active on weekly time scales, and (3) SST perturbations in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, not the Indian Ocean, are the dominant contributor to MJO disruption over Indonesia. Interestingly, IOD-driven MJO weakening does not occur due to local dynamics over the Indian Ocean as might be expected. Rather, the MJO disruption dynamics are traced back to Central Pacific SST perturbations that coexist with the IOD event and seem to be indirectly associated with an El Niño-IOD relationship. This finding has profound implications for understanding MJO’s future based on the future pattern of SSTs.

References: Benedict, J. J., M. S. Pritchard, and W. D. Collins. 2015. “Sensitivity of MJO Propagation to a Robust Positive Indian Ocean Dipole Event in the Superparameterized CAM,” Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems 7(4), 1901-17. DOI: 10.1002/2015MS000530. (Reference link)

Contact: Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling

Division: SC-33.1 Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)