Atmosphere-ocean coupled processes in the Madden-Julian oscillation
To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/2014RG000478
The Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO) is a convectively coupled 30-70 day (intraseasonal) tropical atmospheric mode that drives variations in global weather, but which is poorly simulated in most atmospheric general circulation models. Over the past two decades, field campaigns and modeling experiments have suggested that tropical atmosphere-ocean interactions may sustain or amplify the pattern of enhanced and suppressed atmospheric convection that defines the MJO, and encourage its eastward propagation through the Indian and Pacific Oceans. New observations collected during the past decade have advanced our understand of the ocean response to atmospheric MJO forcing and the resulting intraseasonal sea surface temperature (SST) fluctuations. Numerous modeling studies have revealed a considerable impact of the mean state on MJO ocean-atmosphere coupled processes, as well as the importance of resolving the diurnal cycle of atmosphere--upper-ocean interactions. New diagnostic methods provide insight to atmospheric variability and physical processes associated with the MJO, but offer limited insight on the role of ocean feedbacks. Consequently, uncertainty remains concerning the role of the ocean in MJO theory. Our understanding of how atmosphere-ocean coupled processes affect the MJO can be improved by collecting observations in poorly sampled regions of MJO activity, assessing oceanic and atmospheric drivers of surface fluxes, improving the representation of upper-ocean mixing in coupled-model simulations, designing model experiments that minimize mean-state differences, and developing diagnostic tools to evaluate the nature and role of coupled ocean-atmosphere processes over the MJO cycle.