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Convective Structure and Environmental Conditions in the MJO Initiation over the Indian Ocean

The proposed research addresses two of the Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) science hypotheses: i) interaction between environmental moisture and convection and ii) the dynamic evolution of the cloud population, which is key to MJO initiation over the tropical Indian Ocean. The main objectives are to better understand the structure of convective cloud systems and their large-scale environment in the MJO initiation process and to improve MJO forecasts. It includes three components: 1) cloud cluster tracking analysis using hourly satellite IR data along with observations of environmental water vapor and SST as well as the global analysis of wind and temperature data, 2) aircraft observation of convective cloud systems during the DYNAMO field campaign, and 3) model evaluation and verification for improving operational MJO monitoring and forecasting.

The PI team will first conduct pre-DYNAMO field campaign data analysis using existing METEOSAT data to compile a cloud system statistics that can be used to diagnose developing and non-developing MJO convection. The cloud cluster tracking combined with global model forecast guidance will be used for operations during the DYNAMO field campaign including planning of daily aircraft missions. A comprehensive post-DYNAMO data analysis will be provided for model evaluation and verification. This research fits well with NOAA’s interests in improving the MJO prediction that will have a direct impact on seasonal and weather forecasts over the North American continent as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Seas.

This proposed research builds on results from the prior NOAA, NSF, and NASA supported projects (e.g., TOGA COARE and TRMM) and the expertise of PIs on satellite data analysis, aircraft observation of tropical convective systems over the western Pacific, global modeling of tropical circulation and prediction, and operational forecasting of MJO. It brings together a research team with scientists from the University of Miami, NOAA/National Severe Storm Lab (NSSL), the University of Maryland and NOAA/Climate Prediction Center (CPC). It will address one of the most challenging and unresolved science questions related MJO: what determines the onset of convective activity leading up to the initiation of MJO over the tropical Indian Ocean.

The proposed project will contribute to the NOAA ESS Program FY2011 research theme of Understanding and Improving Prediction of Tropical Convection. Specifically it will address science questions related to cloud processes and interaction with their large-scale environment associated with MJO and the field campaign of DYNAMO. The outcome of this study is expected to improve MJO prediction through a better understanding of the physical processes and a unique data set for model evaluation, verification and data assimilation.

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