Articles | Volume 8, issue 6
Research article
11 Dec 2012
Research article |  | 11 Dec 2012

Impact of the sea surface temperature forcing on hindcasts of Madden-Julian Oscillation events using the ECMWF model

E. de Boisséson, M. A. Balmaseda, F. Vitart, and K. Mogensen

Abstract. This paper explores the sensitivity of hindcasts of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) to the use of different sea surface temperture (SST) products as lower boundary conditions in the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) atmospheric model. Three sets of monthly hindcast experiments are conducted, starting from initial conditions from the ERA interim reanalysis. First, as a reference, the atmosphere is forced by the SST used to produce ERA interim. In the second and third experiments, the SST is switched to the OSTIA (Operational Sea Surface Temperature and Sea-Ice Analysis) and the AVHRR-only (Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer) reanalyses, respectively. Tests on the temporal resolution of the SST show that monthly fields are not optimal, while weekly and daily resolutions provide similar MJO scores. When using either OSTIA or AVHRR, the propagation of the MJO is degraded and the resulting scores are lower than in the reference experiment. Further experiments show that this loss of skill cannot be attributed to either the difference in mean state or temporal variability between the SST products. Additional diagnostics show that the phase relationship between either OSTIA or AVHRR SST and the MJO convection is distorted with respect to satellite observations and the ERA interim reanalysis. This distortion is expected to impact the MJO hindcasts, leading to a relative loss of forecast skill. A realistic representation of ocean–atmosphere interactions is thus needed for MJO hindcasts, but not all SST products – though accurate for other purposes – fulfill this requirement.