Spectral Signatures of Moisture-Convection Feedbacks over the Indian Ocean Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract Positive feedbacks between the cloud population and the environmental moisture field are central to theoretical expositions on the MaddenJulian oscillation (MJO). This study investigates the statistical incidence of positive moistureconvection 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 moistureconvection feedbacks are primarily a low-frequency, low-wavenumber phenomenon with significant spectral signatures in the 3248-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 moistureconvection feedbacks contribute more to moisture increases in the MJO than in other equatorial waves. A moving-window correlation analysis suggests that instances of moistureconvection feedbacks are more frequent in drier conditions, when column water vapor (CWV) is below its climatological mean value, with the implication that positive moistureconvection 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 moistureconvection 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 moistureconvection feedbacks than ensembles with other vertical structures. Low-frequency horizontal advective drying damps moisture increases and is strongly coherent with upper-level rising motion.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 12.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Ahmed, F., & Schumacher, C.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Ahmed, Fiaz||Schumacher, Courtney

publication date

  • June 2018