Intraseasonal Variability in an Aquaplanet General Circulation Model

Maloney, Eric D.; Sobel, Adam H.; Hannah, Walter M.

An aquaplanet atmospheric general circulation model simulation with a robust intraseasonal oscillation is analyzed. The SST boundary condition resembles the observed December‐April average with continents omitted, although with the meridional SST gradient reduced to be one‐quarter of that observed poleward of 10° latitude. Slow, regular eastward propagation at 5 m s−1 in winds and precipitation with amplitude greater than that in the observed MJO is clearly identified in unfiltered fields. Local precipitation rate is a strongly non‐linear and increasing function of column precipitable water, as in observations. The model intraseasonal oscillation resembles a moisture mode that is destabilized by wind‐evaporation feedback, and that propagates eastward through advection of anomalous humidity by the sum of perturbation winds and mean westerly flow. A series of sensitivity experiments are conducted to test hypothesized mechanisms. A mechanism denial experiment in which intraseasonal latent heat flux variability is removed largely eliminates intraseasonal wind and precipitation variability. Reducing the lower‐troposphere westerly flow in the warm pool by reducing the zonal SST gradient slows eastward propagation, supporting the importance of horizontal advection by the low‐level wind to eastward propagation. A zonally symmetric SST basic state produces weak and unrealistic intraseasonal variability between 30 and 90 day timescales, indicating the importance of mean low‐level westerly winds and hence a realistic phase relationship between precipitation and surface flux anomalies for producing realistic tropical intraseasonal variability.


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Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems