DYNAMO success: MJO field campaign comes to a close

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Since late 2011, ESSIC scientists have grown accustomed to seeing periodic updates always carrying a similar subject: DYNAMO news.

Sent by CICS’s own Augustin Vintzileos, the e-mails signify the success of the Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) campaign, which started on October 1st, 2011 and came to a close March 31, 2012.

In the 1970s, NCAR scientists Roland Madden and Paul Julian discovered what would later be called the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO).  According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the MJO “is a recurring disturbance that forms in the Indian Ocean about every 40 to 90 days, then moves eastward along the equator into the Pacific Ocean and beyond.”

In a world with high demand for weather and climate prediction, the MJO is of increasing importance says Vintzileos. Scientists at NCAR believe that the MJO is one of the largest sources of atmospheric variability on earth on the one-to-three-month time scale.

The MJO’s effects can be wide spread.  It can “shape the course of the Asian and Australian monsoons, 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,” according to NCAR.

For Vintzileos, his work began at the beginning of the DYNAMO field campaign, a U.S. project collaborating with Cooperative Indian Ocean on Intraseasonal Variability in the Year 2011 (CINDY2011).

In October 2011, scientists from 16 countries including France, Japan and the U.S. all converged on the Maldives in order to observe, study, and model the MJO.

Vintzileos, a co-PI for a collaborative proposal for the campaign, has been working since then to provide monitoring products, validation of MJO model forecasts and the development of key forecast products in order to support the DYNAMO field campaign in the Indian Ocean.

“We were supporting the campaign with real time monitoring and forecasting,” he said.

In collaboration with the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) staff and funded by NOAA, Vintzileos and his colleagues were able to extend support to all aspects of the campaign.

“The first thing that I did was to discuss with different PIs: PIs from the radars, PIs from the ships, PIs from the airplanes, to see what they needed,” he said. “There were radars on the islands and on the ships, there were radiosondes, balloons that measure everything, there were planes, and there were ships, all collecting data.”

Collecting data in the field is the target of the DYNAMO campaign. Though the MJO has such a large effect on world climate patterns, little is actually known about the occurrence, mostly due to the lack of direct observations especially during its genesis phase in the Indian ocean, said Vintzileos.

“There’s not real yet a theory explaining dynamics and processes,” he said. “We know its impacts, and also we know that the models have a tough time forecasting it, doing the genesis part over the Indian Ocean and especially when the MJO crosses the maritime continent as it travels east towards the Pacific Ocean.”

According to NCAR, when the genesis happens, regional westerly winds replace easterly trade winds near the surface of the ocean.  This causes showers and thunderstorms to increase, especially over regions of high sea surface temperatures in the Indian and western Pacific oceans.

For the scientists, DYNAMO was an attempt to understand the MJO better, and then attempt to model it. To do this, scientists in the field needed access to short term forecasting as well.

“All these people need weather information: what’s the weather going to be like the next few hours, the next few days, or the next couple of weeks,” said Vintzileos.  “They needed forecast support to know what the weather will be and what the large scale conditions would be, and we provide that to help the campaign.”

This information was particularly important for the airplanes on the islands, like the NOAA P-3, which had rigorous protocol as to when they could or could not fly.

Flights, like many of the logistical parts of the DYNAMO campaign, depended heavily on the weather. In order to send crucial information over to the Maldives, Vintzileos and his colleagues developed forecast products at different timescales.

Type-A products targeted hourly basis conditions, whereas Type-B products targeted daily conditions and Type-C products  targeted weekly conditions.

Then, at 8:30 EST in the morning every Wednesday  during the campaign NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center DYNAMO team, in which Vintzileos participated, would teleconference with scientists on the island, to discuss past, current and future weather patterns.

With the conclusion of the DYNAMO field study this past week, Vintzileos has shifted his focus to the second part of the proposal.

”Now, after the operational support, we have to check how the models did,” he said.

Further down the road, he and his colleagues are proposing to re-run the forecast  model without using the data collected by DYNAMO and see how the predictions compare.

The first diagnostic studies based on DYNAMO data will be presented in mid-April 2012 at the AMS 30th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology in Pointe Verde, Fl.

Vintzileos looks back on the campaign as a success.  With each excited e-mail Vintzileos sent out to ESSIC, he explained that another major MJO event had occurred.

“You know you could have sent the ships and the planes sitting there waiting for an MJO event to occur, to happen, and nothing happens for two months, during DYNAMO we had up to three strong events, so very good luck,” he said.


-For more information on the DYNAMO Campaign, click here.-