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Origins of Moist Air in Global Lagrangian Simulations of the Madden–Julian Oscillation

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Many recent studies have characterized the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) as a moisture mode, suggesting that its amplification and eastward propagation result from processes that build up moisture to the east of the MJO's convective center, including frictionally driven boundary layer convergence, surface fluxes, and shallow convection. Discussions of MJO moistening under this theory often implicitly assume an Eulerian framework; i.e., that local increases in moisture result from physical processes acting in the same location as the moistening is observed. In this study, the authors examine MJO moistening in a Lagrangian framework using a model that simulates atmospheric circulations by predicting the motions of individual air parcels. Back trajectories are presented for parcels in moist convecting regions of the MJO, and the effects of different physical processes on their moisture and moist static energy budgets are quantified. The Lagrangian MJO simulations suggest that much of the low-level moist air in heavily precipitating regions of the MJO arrives via the mid troposphere, coming from nearby equatorial regions, where it has been moistened largely by convective processes. Consequently, a thorough understanding of MJO moistening requires knowledge of the origin of the moist air and information about remote moisture sources.

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