Examining changes to the Madden-Julian Oscillation in a warmer climate using CMIP5 models
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Five models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) that reasonably represent the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) are used to examine the response of the MJO to greenhouse gas induced warming. Changes in the MJO's amplitude, zonal scale, and phase speed are examined using daily-mean precipitation during boreal winter (November to April) when the MJO is strongest. The MJO precipitation variance increases with tropics mean surface temperature. However, the westward moving waves of the same temporal and spatial scales increase at about the same rate, suggesting that the maintenance mechanism for the MJO does not change with warming. On the other hand, a robust increase in phase speed of the MJO is found with a rate of 5-12% per degree of surface warming. The robust increase in the MJO phase speed are examined using the linear moisture wave theory of Adames and Kim (2016). In this theory, the MJO phase speed is determined by the horizontal moisture gradient in the lower troposphere, the gross dry stability, the convective moisture adjustment timescale, and zonal wavenumber of the MJO. All CMIP5 models examined show an increase in the horizontal humidity gradient, the gross dry stability and the convective moisture adjustment timescale, while exhibiting a decrease in the zonal wavenumber of the MJO. The increase in the horizontal humidity gradient and zonal scale of the MJO act to increase the speed of the MJO by enhancing horizontal moisture advection associated with the MJO, while the gross dry stability and convective moisture adjustment timescale act to slow down the MJO by dampening the horizontal moisture advection process. In all the models, the combined effects of the four key parameters act to speed up the MJO, matching the calculated phase speed changes with warming in the models.
- Atmospheric sciences