Precursor environmental conditions associated with the termination of Madden-Julian oscillation events

Justin P. Stachnik, Duane E. Waliser, Andrew J. Majda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study presents an analysis of the precursor environmental conditions related to the termination of Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO) events. A simple climatology is created using a real-time MJO monitoring index, documenting the locations and frequencies of MJO decay. Lead-lag composites of several atmospheric variables including temperature, moisture, and intraseasonal wind anomalies are generated from three reanalyses. There is remarkable agreement among the datasets with long-term, lower-tropospheric moisture deficits over the local domain best identifying termination events over the Indian Ocean. MJO termination in the Indian Ocean is also linked to a northward shift of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) with possible lead times as much as 20 days prior to MJO decay. Statistically significant differences in the low-level vertical velocity and specific humidity are also identified more than 10 days in advance of MJO termination events in the western Pacific, though the differences here are more symmetric about the equator. Unlike the Indian Ocean and western Pacific, MJOs that terminate over the Maritime Continent appear to be related to their own intensity rather than the downstream conditions. As such, only the strongest MJOs tend to propagate into the warm pool region. Finally, a budget analysis is performed on the three-dimensional moisture advection equation in order to better elucidate what time scales and physical mechanisms are most important for MJO termination. The combination of intraseasonal vertical circulation anomalies coupled with the mean-state specific humidity best explain the anomalous moisture patterns associated with MJO termination, suggesting that the downstream influence of the MJO circulation can eventually lead to its future demise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1908-1931.pdf
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2015


  • Climatology
  • Intraseasonal variability
  • Madden-Julian oscillation
  • Moisture/moisture budget
  • Reanalysis data
  • Tropics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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