MJO Conversations

There is a (relatively) new blog from scientists involved in a big research program (DYNAMO) looking into the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). Called Madden-Julian Conversations, it is run by Adam Sobel and Daehyun Kim (Columbia), Zhiming Kuang (Harvard) and Eric Maloney (Colorado State).

A schematic of the MJO from cmmap.org

The MJO can be seen in eastward propagating systems of rainfall and deep convection near the equator and influencing the Indian monsoon and El Niño dynamics. Each MJO cycle takes around 30-60 days, so these events can be seen in high frequency diagnostics of cloud cover, LW radiation, rainfall etc. The blog goes into a little more detail of what the MJO is (part i, and parts ii, iii, iv and v), (note that is sometimes referred to as the Intra-seasonal Oscillation or ISO), as well as descriptions of the DYNAMO program and what atmospheric scientists working in the field actually get up to.

(but note that apparently a helmet is not actually required for modelers to launch radiosondes).

This is exactly the kind of thing that should become more common – scientists actually showing the world directly what their research involves and the process that we follow to find stuff out. This will make a great backdrop to the rather dryer contributions to the technical literature that will come from this.

10 comments on this post.
  1. Lloyd Smith:

    How long is the life of DYNAMO? Will the information gained help identify the causal factors behind the latest Amazon drought?

  2. Hardy Cross:

    Balloons are still used to sample atmospheric temperatures? Gotta be some big error bars on that type of data.

  3. Dan:

    re: 2. The thermometers used in radiosonde flights are thoroughly tested and quite accurate. For example, read http://www.vaisala.com/Vaisala%20Documents/Brochures%20and%20Datasheets/MET-Sounding-WMO-Brochure-B211128EN-C-LOW-v3.pdf about the commonly used Vaisala radiosonde which was tested by the WMO.

    As an aside, why not look this information up for yourself? It took me all of 10 seconds to find the technical information via Google.

  4. codeblue:

    Hardy Cross,

    Radiosondes are an important source of upper air data. We do have GPS occultation soundings from satellites, but as with any remote sensing instrument that uses a model, it has associated errors as well – satellite data is not a direct measurement! It’s a necessity to have both in situ and remotely sensed data that can constrain and compliment each other.

  5. Jeffrey Davis:

    “It’s a necessity to have both in situ and remotely sensed data that can constrain and compliment each other.”

    The vanity of scientists!

  6. Adam Sobel:

    A balloon is the way to actually put a thermometer in the air. There is no better way to measure the temperature of something than to physically put a thermometer in it.

    The duration of DYNAMO will be about 6 months, with the intensive phase (when all the hardware is out there) being 2 months. I don’t think it will explain Amazon drought. The MJO influences weather in many places in many ways, but tends not to cause droughts because a drought almost by definition is something that lasts longer than an MJO event.

    Thanks very much Gavin and RC for this link to our blog!

  7. Adam Sobel:

    A radiosonde is the way to put a thermometer in the air at high altitude. There is no better way to measure the temperature of something than to put a thermometer in it. Satellites are not more accurate, they are less accurate. The advantage they have is coverage – they see a large area at once, without a person having to be there. A radiosonde needs someone to launch it, which is why in a lot of places (like the Indian ocean) we don’t have them, unless we make a special effort – a field program like DYNAMO – to go there and launch some.

    DYNAMO is occurring from 1 October 2011-31 March 2012, but the intensive phase (when all the hardware is out there) is October and November. I don’t think it will address Amazon drought. The MJO does affect weather in many places, but because a drought almost by definition is something that lasts longer than a few weeks (the duration of an MJO event), the MJO tends not to be responsible for droughts.

    Thanks Gavin and RC for the plug.

  8. Alvin:

    Hi Gavin,
    Your comment about the blogs showing the world how climate research is carried out is a good one.

    As the communications and media person for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (http://www.climatescience.org.au/index.html), I believe it can be a core part of how we get people interested and understanding what we are doing.

    Coincidently, we just had a PhD student working on DYNAMO and he knocked together a small blog (http://www.climatescience.org.au/blog/index.html) about his experiences. We kept it intentionally light.

    It’s great to see a blog that will follow the DYNAMO study all the way through.

    The entries at Climate Science will be the first of many blog entries we plan to produce about our work over the coming years and is a key component of our outreach.

  9. Roisin:

    Someone let modelers into the field?!
    That said, these blogs are great… Maybe we should let them out of the office more often :)

    [Response: I'm about as theoretical as they come, but after Jule Charney helped arrange a junior faculty appointment for me at MIT, the first thing he did was insist I go flying around the Alps with ALPEX to see what fluid dynamics really looks like from the insides. --raypierre]

  10. Kevin McKinney:

    The good news–interesting science, a cool blog, and abounding good feeling.

    The bad news–another damn oscillatory acronym to remember. . .