Multiplicative MJO forcing of ENSO

Atul Kapur, Chidong Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO) is parameterized to study the role of the feedback it receives from sea surface temperature (SST) in its influence on El Nin~ o-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The parameterization describes MJO surface westerlies in terms of a few basic parameters that include amplitude, zonal propagation extent, propagation speed, and the interval between adjacent events. It is used to drive a coupled ocean-atmosphere model of intermediate complexity tuned to a marginally stable regime. The MJO parameters acquire values either additively (i.e., based on observed estimates of most probable value and stochasticity) or multiplicatively (i.e., modulated by an evolving model ENSO SST, albeit with some stochasticity). Simulations reveal that ENSO variance increases with the stochasticity of MJO amplitude but is insensitive to the stochasticity of zonal extent and speed, except that ENSO vanishes completely when the propagation speed is zero. Likewise, ENSO strengthens linearly with the SST modulation of MJO amplitude, but not of speed and zonal extent-even though the two are known to be significantly influenced by SST. Ensemble comparisons between simulations with and without SST feedback demonstrate that SST feedback to the MJO acting in a stable regime can be responsible for the observed ENSO variance. The multiplicative case has a larger ensemble spread than the additive case, which manifests in a larger interdecadal variability of ENSO. The results emphasize that ENSO reproduction in coupled models depends on correctly representing the MJO, especially its amplitude and SST feedback.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8132-8147
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Coupled models
  • ENSO
  • Feedback
  • Interannual variability
  • Madden-Julian oscillation
  • Stochastic models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Multiplicative MJO forcing of ENSO'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this