Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 70, 187-192.

Moisture modes and the eastward propagation of the MJO.

Adam H. Sobel
Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, New York, NY.

Eric D. Maloney
Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.


The authors discuss modifications to a simple linear model of intraseasonal moisture modes. Wind-evaporation feedbacks were shown in an earlier study to induce westward propagation in an eastward mean low-level flow in this model. Here additional processes which provide effective sources of moist static energy to the disturbances and which also depend on the low-level wind are considered. Several processes can act as positive sources in perturbation easterlies: zonal advection (if the mean zonal moisture gradient is eastward), modulation of synoptic eddy drying by the MJO-scale wind perturbations, and frictional convergence. If the sum of these is stronger than the wind-evaporation feedback --- as observations suggest may be the case, though with considerable uncertainty --- the model produces unstable modes which propagate weakly eastward relative to the mean flow. With a small amount of horizontal diffusion or other scale-selective damping, the growth rate is greatest at the largest horizontal scales and decreases monotonically with wave number.