The Intraseasonal (30-50 day) Oscillation of the Australian Summer Monsoon

Harry H. Hendon
Center for Atmospheric Theory and Analysis, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

Brant Liebmann
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

(Manuscript recieved 5 December 1989, in final form 4 June 1990)

Abstract

The tropical intraseasonal (30-50 day) oscillation manifests itself in the Australian summer monsoon by a pronounced modulation of the monsoonal westerlies. These 30-50 day fluctuations of the monsoonal westerlies are coherent with rainfall and OLR across northern Australia. The OLR fluctuation originates in the Indian Ocean and systematically propagates eastward at 5 m s-1, consistent with previous studies of the intraseasonal oscillation.

The detailed evolution of the intraseasonal oscillation of the monsoon is studied via composites of upper air data in and about the Australian tropics. During the summer periods 1957-87, 91 events were identified at Darwin, Australia. The composite oscillation at Darwin has a very deep baroclinic structure with westerlies extending up to 300 mb. The westerly phase lasts about ten days and lags a similar duration rainfall event by about four days. During the westerly phase, the upper troposphere is warm and the extreme lower troposphere is cool. This structure is consistent with midtropospheric latent heating and lower tropospheric cooling due to evaporation of falling rain. The magnitude of the composite oscillation at Darwin is about 5 m s-1 in zonal wind, 1 m s-1 in meridonial wind, 0.5K in temperature, 5 mm rainfall per day, and 10% in relative humidity. The oscillation at Darwin is readily traced as far west as Cocos Island and as far east as Pago Pago.

Above northern Australia, enhanced synoptic scale variability develops during the wet-westerly phase of the oscillation. Analysis of a single station record precludes documentation of the structure of these synoptic fluctuations. In the Northern Hemisphere midlatitodes, a wave train in 500 mb heights appears to emanate from the longitude of the Australian tropics during the wet-westerly phase. The magnitude of this wave train is only about 50 m while the wave train undergoes a systematic evolution as the tropical convective anomaly moves west to east, no sense of dispersion from a localized low-latitude heat source is evident.