MJO: Asymptotically-Nondivergent Nonlinear Wave?: A Review

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 8:30 AM
Jun-Ichi Yano, CNRM-GAME, Toulouse Cedex 01, France
MJO is often considered a convectively-coupled wave. The present talk is going to argue that it is best understood primarily as a nonlinear solitary wave dominated by vorticity. Role of convection is secondary,
though likely catalytic.

According to Charney's (1963) scale analysis, the large-scale tropical circulations are nondivergent to the leading order, i.e., dominated by rotational flows. Yano et al (2009) demonstrate indeed that is the case for a period dominated by three MJO events. The scale analysis of Yano and Bonazzola (2009, JAS) demonstrates such an asymptotically nondivergent regime is a viable alternative to the traditionally-believed equatorial-wave regime. Wedi and Smolarkiewicz (2010, JAS) in turn, show by numerical computations of a dry system that a MJO-like oscillation for a similar period can indeed be generated by free solitary nonlinear equatorial Rossby-wave dynamics
without any convective forcing to a system.

Unfortunately, this perspective is slow to be accepted with people's mind so much fixed on the role of convection. This situation may be compared to a slow historical process of acceptance of Eady and Charney's baroclinic
instability simply because it does not invoke any convection

Ironically, once the nonlinear free-wave view for MJO is accepted, interpretations can more easily be developed for a recent series of numerical model experiments under a global channel configuration over
the tropics with a high-resolution of 5-50 km with or without convection parameterization.

All those experiments tend to reproduce observed large-scale circulations associated with MJO rather well, though most of time, they fail to reproduce convective coherency associated with MJO.
These large-scale circulations appear to be generated by lateral forcing imposed at the latitudinal walls. These lateral boundaries are reasonably far enough (30NS) to induce any direct influence to the tropics. There is no linear dry equatorial wave that supports this period either. In Wedi and Smolarkiewicz's analysis, such a lateral forcing is essential in order to obtain their nonlinear solitary wave solution. Thus is the leading-order solution for MJO in the same sense as the linear baroclinic instability is a leading-order solution to the midlatitude synoptic-scale storm.