2011-19For Immediate Release: September 22, 2011
Scientists probe Indian Ocean for clues to worldwide weather patterns
BOULDER — An international team of researchers will begin gathering in the Indian Ocean next month to study how tropical weather brews there and then moves eastward along the equator with reverberating effects around the entire globe. They will use a vast array of tools ranging from aircraft and ships to moorings, radars, and numerical models.
The six-month field campaign, known as DYNAMO (Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation), will help improve long-range weather forecasts and seasonal outlooks, and enable scientists to further refine computer models of global climate.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is providing major observing tools to the science team and helping to oversee operations and data management for the project.
DYNAMO is organized internationally as the Cooperative Indian Ocean Experiment on Intraseasonal Variability in the Year 2011 (CINDY2011), which is led by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology.
The overriding goal of the DYNAMO field campaign is to better understand a disturbance of the tropics known as the Madden-Julian Oscillation, or MJO. This disturbance, which originates in the equatorial Indian Ocean roughly every 30 to 90 days, is part of the Asian and Australian monsoons. It can enhance hurricane activity in the northeast Pacific and Gulf of Mexico, trigger torrential rainfall along the west coast of North America, and affect the onset of El Niño, along with other impacts on weather and climate patterns around the globe.
Scientists believe that the MJO is the world’s greatest source of atmospheric variability in the one- to three-month time frame.
“The Madden-Julian Oscillation has a huge impact all over the globe,”
says DYNAMO chief scientist Chidong Zhang of the University of Miami.
“It connects weather and climate, and it is important to forecasting both of them.”
“The MJO drives weather in both hemispheres even though it sits along the equator,” says NCAR’s Jim Moore, director of the DYNAMO project office. “Its origins have never been measured in such a systematic fashion before.”
DYNAMO, the Littoral Air-Sea Processes (LASP), and the ARM MJO Investigation Experiment (AMIE) are the three U.S. projects contributing to CINDY 2011. DYNAMO, LASP, and AMIE are jointly supported by several United States agencies including the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Naval Research (ONR), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NASA.
Staff, facilities, and observations for the international collaborative effort are being provided by 16 countries: Australia, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Korea, the Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. U.S. scientists, students, engineers, and staff from 16 universities and 11 national laboratories and centers are participating in the field campaign.
The project “super site” on Addu Atoll in the Maldives will host the major radar array. Other observation sites will be based on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and on Diego Garcia atoll, as well as aboard research ships and aircraft in the Indian Ocean. The AMIE project provides continuous observations on Addu Atoll and Manus for the six-month period.
“The entire international program encompasses a vast expanse of the Indian Ocean on both sides of the equator and into the equatorial western Pacific, providing scientists a chance to measure the pulse of the whole life cycle of the MJO,” says AMIE principal investigator Chuck Long of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.