Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO)

The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is the major fluctuation in tropical weather on weekly to monthly timescales. The MJO can be characterised 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 are 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.

Tropical cyclone Stan crosses Australia’s northwest coast

Tropical cyclone Stan was a very late first cyclone for the 2015-16 Australian tropical cyclone season. A tropical low off the northwest coast of Australia reached tropical cyclone strength on Friday 29 January. Tropical cyclone Stan made landfall early Sunday morning 31 January as a category 2 cyclone about 135 km east north east of Port Hedland on the Pilbara coast. Stan brought daily rainfall totals around 100 mm and wind gusts up to 155 km/h. The system tracked southeast, over land and weakened but still produced severe wind gusts and heavy rain on 31 January and 1 February. El Niño shifts the odds towards both fewer cyclones in the Australian region and a later first cyclone coastal crossing of the season.

Australian monsoon keeps delivering rainfall this week

Monsoonal flow currently affecting parts of northern Australia is expected to bring rain areas, storms and some heavy falls in the coming days. Localised flooding is likely across the Top End over the next week or so, while the monsoon continues. Recent monsoonal activity over the last two days of January spared many Northern Territory locations from recording their driest January on record.

Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) strengthens over the Maritime Continent

Last week, the MJO re-strengthened over the western Indian Ocean and entered the Maritime Continent. Most models agree the MJO will continue eastward over the Maritime Continent this week and early next week. The MJO crossing the Maritime Continent at this time of year would typically enhance rainfall over some northern and central parts of Australia. While the MJO is within Australian longitudes, the risk of tropical cyclone development across northern Australian will be increased.

See the Bureau's MJO Monitoring for current MJO information.

El Niño gradually declining

The strong El Niño continues its gradual decline in the tropical Pacific. Climate models suggest a return to neutral levels in the second quarter of 2016.Historically, southwest Pacific islands which rely on wet season rainfall have seen below average precipitation during a strong El Niño pattern. Based on the 26 El Niño events since 1900, around 50% have been followed by a neutral year, and 40% have been followed by La Niña. Models suggest the neutral state is most likely for the second half of 2016, followed by La Niña, with a repeat El Niño assessed as very unlikely.

See the Bureau of Meteorology's ENSO Wrap-Up for official El Niño information.

Product code: IDCKGEW000

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

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Climate

Service notice

Network problems on 8 January disrupted processing of observations, affecting some climate information. Missing data are being retrieved and will be processed into our systems over coming weeks.