ONR funds scientists in international climate research and modeling project

October 13th, 2011
An international team of researchers co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is studying Indian Ocean meteorological and oceanographic processes for clues to predicting worldwide weather patterns, ONR announced Oct. 13.

The six-month field campaign known as DYNAMO (Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation) will improve long-range weather forecasts and seasonal outlooks and enable scientists to refine global climate computer models.

The primary objective is to better understand a tropical disturbance known as the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). The MJO originates in the Indian Ocean approximately every 30 to 90 days and is part of the Asian and Australian monsoons. It impacts weather and climate patterns around the globe, such as enhancing hurricane activity in the northeast Pacific and Gulf of Mexico, triggering torrential rainfall along North America's west coast and affecting the onset of El Niño, a condition of unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.

"As the major source of variability in the tropics, the MJO affects the Department of the Navy's [DoN] ability to operate safely and effectively," said Cmdr. Daniel Eleuterio, a program officer in ONR's Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department. "Recognizing the MJO's phase and movement can potentially provide useful guidance to route planning on the order of weeks for Navy cross-ocean transits."

The researchers will study the ocean's physical properties, including temperature, waves, currents and salinity, and collect data on the atmosphere and ocean-atmosphere interactions. They will use tools ranging from deployed and expendable sensors on aircraft, research ships and moorings to land- and sea-based radars and lidars.

The collected atmospheric and ocean data will be fed into computational models to study the MJO's origins and properties. The state-of-the-art models include DoN's Coupled Ocean/Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System (COAMPS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Coupled Forecast System (CFS). COAMPS and CFS will provide detailed forecasts of atmospheric and oceanic conditions to guide the deployment of DYNAMO moorings and daily research aircraft missions.

"The Naval Research Laboratory [NRL] has had a long-standing focus on air-sea interaction," said Dr. Simon Chang, superintendent of the NRL Marine Meteorology Division and DYNAMO science advisory group member. "This will be an incredible dataset for validating and improving the Navy Coastal Ocean Model, Wave Model and COAMPS."

DYNAMO is an international effort with 16 countries providing staff, facilities and observations. The U.S. scientists, students, engineers and staff come from 16 universities and 11 national laboratories and centers.

"The great collaboration we've forged among federal agencies and international partners makes this kind of multi-scale air-ocean effort possible," said Dr. Scott Harper, team lead for ONR's Air-Sea Integrated Prediction focus area.

DYNAMO is one component of the international Cooperative Indian Ocean Experiment on Intraseasonal Variability in the Year 2011 (CINDY2011), which is led by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. In addition to DYNAMO, the U.S. has two other CINDY 2011 projects: the Littoral Air-Sea Processes and Atmospheric Radiation Measurement MJO Investigation Experiment.

Provided by Office of Naval Research

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