Intraseasonal surface cooling in the equatorial western Pacific

C. Zhang, M. J. McPhaden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Three idealized models for the surface structure of the Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO) were summarized from observations, numerical simulations, and theories, which demonstrate contrasting phase relationships of surface variables. To explore which model represents the most commonly observed features of the MJO in the western Pacific, in situ observations from moored buoys and satellite data were used to construct composite time series for components of surface fluxes of heat, momentum, and buoyancy during intraseasonal cooling episodes, defined as periods when the ocean loses heat through the surface. The composites show a near in-phase relationship among maxima in net surface cooling, latent heat flux, precipitation rate, wind stress, westerly wind, and minima in solar radiation flux and net buoyancy flux. The phase of net buoyancy flux is determined by the net heat flux, whereas its magnitude is substantially compensated by freshwater flux. During the composite cooling episode, both the oceanic isothermal layer and mixed layer become deeper, the barrier layer becomes thinner, and the sea surface becomes cooler. The strength of atmospheric forcing and the oceanic response increases with the length of the cooling episodes. The phase relationships found in the composites are consistent with one of the three MJO models and with some previous studies based on observations and global model analyses but are inconsistent with others. Possible reasons for the disagreement among different studies and the implications of the disagreement are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2261-2276
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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