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.

Weekly Tropical Climate Note

Issued 1 September 2015

Tropical activity in the Pacific region

Four significant weather systems are currently affecting the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes Kilo and Jimena are well away from any land areas, while hurricane Ignacio is expected to continue to track north of the Hawaiian Islands and not significantly affect the region. Further east, a developing tropical low lies off the west coast of Mexico. This system is not expected to impact the Mexican or Californian coast as a hurricane.

A rare tropical cyclone is currently affecting the Cape Verde island group in the North Atlantic Ocean. Tropical storm Fred, which reached hurricane strength at its peak intensity, is the first system to affect the Cape Verde Islands since reliable satellite imagery became available in the 1970s.

Madden-Julian Oscillation remains weak

The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) signal remains weak or indiscernible. Climate models indicate that it is likely to remain weak over the next fortnight, and as such, it is unlikely to significantly influence tropical weather in the coming weeks. In the absence of a clear MJO signal, warm oceans in the tropical Pacific Ocean, related to El Niño, will continue to be dominant drivers for tropical activity across the region. Though the MJO is weak, the most active period for tropical activity in the northern hemisphere is during September. Therefore there is still a heightened chance of tropical cyclone development, especially over the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, where the ocean is significantly warmer than normal due to El Niño.

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

El Niño strengthens

The 2015 El Niño is now the strongest El Niño since 1997–98. The tropical Pacific Ocean and atmosphere are fully coupled, with sea surface temperatures well above El Niño thresholds, consistently weak trade winds, and a strongly negative Southern Oscillation Index. Weekly tropical Pacific Ocean temperature anomalies (i.e. difference from normal) in the central Pacific are now at their highest values since 1997–98, though still remain more than half a degree below the peak observed during 1997–98.

Most international climate models surveyed by the Bureau of Meteorology indicate the tropical Pacific will continue to warm, with the largest anomalies occurring later in the year. Typically, El Niño peaks during the late austral spring or early summer, and weakens during late summer to autumn. The 2015 event has, so far, been following a normal El Niño life cycle.

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

Next update expected by 8 September 2015 | Product Code IDCKGEW000

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

Product Code: IDCKGEWWOO