Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Davis

UC Davis Previously Published Works bannerUC Davis

Four Theories of the Madden‐Julian Oscillation


Studies of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) have progressed considerably during the past decades in observations, numerical modeling, and theoretical understanding. Many theoretical attempts have been made to identify the most essential processes responsible for the existence of the MJO. Criteria are proposed to separate a hypothesis from a theory (based on the first principles with quantitative and testable assumptions, able to predict quantitatively the fundamental scales and eastward propagation of the MJO). Four MJO theories are selected to be summarized and compared in this article: the skeleton theory, moisture-mode theory, gravity-wave theory, and trio-interaction theory of the MJO. These four MJO theories are distinct from each other in their key assumptions, parameterized processes, and, particularly, selection mechanisms for the zonal spatial scale, time scale, and eastward propagation of the MJO. The comparison of the four theories and more recent development in MJO dynamical approaches lead to a realization that theoretical thinking of the MJO is diverse and understanding of MJO dynamics needs to be further advanced.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View