Japanese atmospheric scientists reveal they have cracked the code to model a complex weather phenomenon using a new supercomputer. They say their work will help build more accurate forecasts of monsoons and tropical cyclones up to a month away.
Their research focused on moving regions of wet and dry weather that travel over the warm parts of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. These regions move eastward at up to 18 mph in a regular 30- to 60-day cycle of thunderstorms followed by suppressed precipitation. The phenomenon is called the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), and influences deadly monsoon and cyclone development. It has also been linked to the periodic El Niño/La Niña weather event in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Efforts to model the globe-spanning MJO’s variability have been limited by the complicated physics that happens within the churning clouds. But atmospheric researchers at the Japanese Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo employed the K computer to accurately recreate MJOs of the past, proving that it will be important for future forecasts.
Though millions of people in the Western Hemisphere might have already had a suspicion that October was a busy month for tropical storms, the National Hurricane Center has put some official numbers on it.
The center says five tropical storms formed in October. Two developed into hurricanes, including Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged parts of New Jersey and New York. This puts the month’s activity well above the long-term average of two named storms and one hurricane.