Spectral signatures of moisture-convection feedbacks over the Indian Ocean Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2018 American Meteorological Society. Positive feedbacks between the cloud population and the environmental moisture field are central to theoretical expositions on the Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO). This study investigates the statistical incidence of positive moisture-convection feedbacks across multiple space and time scales over the tropical Indian Ocean. This work uses vertically integrated moisture budget terms from the ECMWF interim reanalysis [ERA-Interim (ERA-I)] in a framework proposed by Hannah et al. Positive moisture-convection feedbacks are primarily a low-frequency, low-wavenumber phenomenon with significant spectral signatures in the 32-48-day time scale. The efficacy of these feedbacks, however, is subject to horizontal moisture advection variations, whose relative importance varies with scale. Wave-filtered Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite precipitation is used to show that these moisture-convection feedbacks contribute more to moisture increases in the MJO than in other equatorial waves. A moving-window correlation analysis suggests that instances of moisture-convection feedbacks are more frequent in drier conditions, when column water vapor (CWV) is below its climatological mean value, with the implication that positive moisture-convection feedbacks shape the mean CWV field by moistening drier air columns, but that they are less effective in moistening already moist environments. Ground radar observations show that stratiform rain damps local CWV increases on short time scales (< 2 days) and therefore precludes positive moisture-convection feedbacks in high-CWV environments. Vertical coherence structures from ERA-I confirm that relatively bottom-heavy cloud ensembles (i.e., peaks between 700 and 850 hPa) are more effective in inducing low-frequency positive moisture-convection feedbacks than ensembles with other vertical structures. Low-frequency horizontal advective drying damps moisture increases and is strongly coherent with upper-level rising motion.

altmetric score

  • 12.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Ahmed, F., & Schumacher, C.

citation count

  • 2

publication date

  • June 2018