Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO)

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The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is the major fluctuation in tropical weather on weekly to monthly timescales. The MJO can be characterized as an eastward moving 'pulse' of cloud and rainfall near the equator that typically recurs every 30 to 60 days.


MJO phase diagram

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*Note: There is missing satellite observations from 16/3/1978 to 31/12/1978.

The MJO phase diagram illustrates the progression of the MJO through different phases, which generally coincide with locations along the equator around the globe. RMM1 and RMM2 are mathematical methods that combine cloud amount and winds at upper and lower levels of the atmosphere to provide a measure of the strength and location of the MJO. When the index is within the centre circle the MJO is considered weak, meaning it is difficult to discern using the RMM methods. Outside of this circle the index is stronger and will usually move in an anti-clockwise direction as the MJO moves from west to east. For convenience, we define 8 different MJO phases in this diagram.

Average weekly rainfall probabilities

These maps show average weekly rainfall probabilities and expected 850 hPa (approximately 1.5 km above sea level) wind anomalies for each of the 8 MJO phases. Green and blue shading indicates higher than normal rainfall would be expected, while red and orange shading indicates lower than normal rainfall would be expected. The direction and length of the arrows indicate the direction and strength of the wind anomaly. The darker the arrow, the more reliable the information is. The relationship of the MJO with Australian rainfall and winds changes with the season (which can be selected at the top).

Average outgoing longwave radiation (OLR)

Outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) is often used as a way to identify tall, thick, convective rain clouds. These maps show the difference from expected cloudiness based on the position of the MJO. The violet and blue shading indicates higher than normal, active or enhanced tropical weather, while orange shading indicates lower than normal cloud or suppressed conditions. The direction and length of the arrows indicate the direction and strength of the wind anomaly. The darker the arrow, the more reliable the information is. The relationship of the MJO with tropical weather patterns changes with the season (which can be selected above the maps).

Global maps of outgoing longwave radiation (OLR)

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Global maps of outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) highlight regions experiencing more or less cloudiness. The top panel is the total OLR in Watts per square metre (W/m²) and the bottom panel is the anomaly (current minus the 1979-1998 climate average), in W/m². In the bottom panel, negative values (blue shading) represent above normal cloudiness while positive values (brown shading) represent below normal cloudiness.

Regional maps of outgoing longwave radiation (OLR)

Click on the boxes to view a timeseries of cloudiness for that region.
Map of regional cloudiness Dateline Vanuatu Coral Sea Fiji Nauru & Tuvalu Solomon Islands New Guinea Northern Australia Micronesia Malaysia & Indonesia Guam & Marianas Philippines Indochina Southern India & Sri Lanka

Below: OLR totals over the dateline

Click to see full-size graph of OLR totals over the dateline.

The graphs linked to this map show the OLRs for the different regions within the Darwin RSMC area. The horizontal dashed line represents what is normal for that time of year (based on the 1979 to 1998 period). The coloured curve is the 3-day moving average OLR in W/m². Below normal OLR indicates cloudier than normal conditions in this particular area, and is shown in blue shading. Above normal OLR indicates less cloudy conditions and is shown in yellow shading.

Daily averaged OLR anomalies

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Westerly wind anomalies

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Time-longitude plots of daily averaged OLR anomalies (left) and 850 hPa (approximately 1.5 km above sea level) westerly wind anomalies (right) are useful for indicating the movement of the MJO.

How to read the Time-Longitude plots

The vertical axis represents time with the most distant past on the top and becoming more recent as you move down the chart. The Horizontal axis represents longitude.

Eastward movement of a strong MJO event would be seen as a diagonal line of violet (downward from left to right) in the OLR diagram, and a corresponding diagonal line of purple in the wind diagram. These diagonal lines would most likely fall between 60°E and 150°E and they would be repeated nearly every 1 to 2 months.

Weekly Tropical Climate Note

Issued on Tuesday 22 April 2014

Madden-Julian Oscillation has weakened

This week, the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) has been active across the far western Pacific, near the equator. In recent days, the strength of the MJO has weakened. The MJO and associated cloudiness is forecast to remain weak as it moves eastwards into the central equatorial Pacific over the next week. While the MJO is weak it is expected to have little influence on tropical weather. However, even a weak signal in this region can sometimes act to suppress tropical convection to the north of Australia.

See the Bureau's MJO Monitoring for more information on location and tracking of the MJO.

Australin region tropical cyclones

Severe tropical cyclone Jack formed in the tropical Indian Ocean, near 90° E on 19 April. The system poses no direct threat to the Cocos Islands or mainland Western Australia. Jack is the tenth named storm to form in the Australian region during the 2013-2014 tropical cyclone season. This season has seen six tropical cyclones cross the Australian coastline, including two severe tropical cyclones (Christine and Ita). The Australian tropical cyclone season typically runs through to the end of April.

El Niño likely in 2014

While the Pacific is currently in a neutral state, climate model forecasts and recent changes across the Pacific indicate an El Niño event is likely in the coming months.

The latest sea surface temperature anomaly across the NINO3.4 region (located in the central Pacific) is +0.3 °C and has shown steady warming since February. The latest 30–day average SOI value to 20 April is +2.2.

El Niño is often, but not always, associated with below normal rainfall across large parts of southern eastern and northern Australia during the second half of the year.

See the Bureau's ENSO Wrap-Up for official information about the current state of the El Niño—Southern Oscillation and to learn more about El Niño.

Next update expected by 29 April 2014| Product Code IDCKGEWOOO

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Interpolated OLR data provided by the NOAA/OAR/ESRL PSD, Boulder, Colorado, USA.

Product Code: IDCKGEWWOO