Modulation of Daily Precipitation over Southwest Asia by the Madden–Julian Oscillation

Barlow, Mathew; Wheeler, Matthew; Lyon, Bradfield; Cullen, Heidi
December 2005
Monthly Weather Review;Dec2005, Vol. 133 Issue 12, p3579
Academic Journal
Analysis of daily observations shows that wintertime (November–April) precipitation over Southwest Asia is modulated by Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) activity in the eastern Indian Ocean, with strength comparable to the interannual variability. Daily outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) for 1979–2001 is used to provide a long and consistent, but indirect, estimate of precipitation, and daily records from 13 stations in Afghanistan reporting at least 50% of the time for 1979–85 are used to provide direct, but shorter and irregularly reported, precipitation data. In the station data, for the average of all available stations, there is a 23% increase in daily precipitation relative to the mean when the phase of the MJO is negative (suppressed tropical convection in the eastern Indian Ocean), and a corresponding decrease when the MJO is positive. The distribution of extremes is also affected such that the 10 wettest days all occur during the negative MJO phase. The longer record of OLR data indicates that the effect of the MJO is quite consistent from year to year, with the anomalies averaged over Southwest Asia more negative (indicating more rain) for the negative phase of the MJO for each of the 22 yr in the record. Additionally, in 9 of the 22 yr the average influence of the MJO is larger than the interannual variability (e.g., the relationship results in anomalously wet periods even in dry years and vice versa). Examination of NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data shows that the MJO modifies both the local jet structure and, through changes to the thermodynamic balance, the vertical motion field over Southwest Asia, consistent with the observed modulation of the associated synoptic precipitation. A simple persistence scheme for forecasting the sign of the MJO suggests that the modulation of Southwest Asia precipitation may be predictable for 3-week periods. Finally, analysis of changes in storm evolution in Southwest Asia due to the influence of the MJO shows a large difference in strength as the storms move over Afghanistan, with apparent relevance for the flooding event of 12–13 April 2002.


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