, Volume 36, Issue 3-4, pp 649-661
Date: 19 Feb 2010

Prediction of the Madden–Julian oscillation with the POAMA dynamical prediction system

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Abstract

Predictions of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) are assessed using a 10-member ensemble of hindcasts from POAMA, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology coupled ocean–atmosphere seasonal prediction system. The ensemble of hindcasts was initialised from observed atmosphere and ocean initial conditions on the first of each month during 1980–2006. The MJO is diagnosed using the Wheeler-Hendon Real-time Multivariate MJO (RMM) index, which involves projection of daily data onto the leading pair of eigenmodes from an analysis of zonal winds at 200 and 850 hPa and outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) averaged about the equator. Forecasts of the two component (RMM1 and RMM2) index are quantitatively compared with observed behaviour derived from NCEP reanalyses and satellite OLR using the bivariate correlation skill, root-mean-square error (RMSE), and measures of the MJO amplitude and phase error. Comparison is also made with a simple vector autoregressive (VAR) prediction model of RMM as a benchmark. Using the full hindcast set, we find that the MJO can be predicted with the POAMA ensemble out to about 21 days as measured by the bivariate correlation exceeding 0.5 and the bivariate RMSE remaining below ~1.4 (which is the value for a climatological forecast). The VAR model, by comparison, drops to a correlation of 0.5 by about 12 days. The prediction limit from POAMA increases by less than 2 days for times when the MJO has large initial amplitude, and has little sensitivity to the initial phase of the MJO. The VAR model, on the other hand, shows a somewhat larger increase in skill for times of strong MJO variability and has greater sensitivity to initial phase, with lower skill for times when MJO convection is developing in the Indian Ocean. The sensitivity to season is, however, greater for POAMA, with maximum skill occurring in the December–January–February season and minimum skill in June–July–August. Examination of the MJO amplitudes shows that individual POAMA members have slightly above observed amplitude after a spin-up of about 10 days, whereas examination of the MJO phase error reveals that the model has a consistent tendency to propagate the MJO slightly slower than observed. Finally, an estimate of potential predictability of the MJO in POAMA hindcasts suggests that actual MJO prediction skill may be further improved through continued development of the dynamical prediction system.