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Keywords:

  • GCM;
  • MJO;
  • isotope;
  • water cycle

[1] The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is the dominant mode of intraseasonal variability in the tropical atmosphere. This study examines the evolution of the hydrologic regime from before the onset of the MJO (pre-onset period) to the MJO onset period, using deuterated water vapor (HDO) measurements from the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) and from ground-based stations. Ground-based observations reveal a clear transition between high HDO/H2O isotope ratios during the pre-onset period to a period of repeated abrupt decreases in the HDO/H2O isotope ratio associated with intense convection. Each observed minimum in the HDO/H2O ratio corresponded to a maximum in stratiform rainfall fraction, which was derived independently from radar precipitation coverage area. The ground-based observations are consistent with the satellite observations of the HDO/H2O ratio. In order to attribute the mechanisms that bring about the isotopic changes within the MJO convection, an isotope-enabled general circulation model (GCM) constrained by observed meteorological fields was used to simulate this MJO period. The GCM reproduced many of the observed isotopic features that accompanied the onset of an MJO. After the development of deep convection, large-scale stratiform cloud cover appears, and isotope ratios respond, as a consequence of diffusive exchange between stratiform raindrops and the surrounding vapor. In this diffusive exchange process, heavy isotopes tend to become enriched in precipitation and depleted in the surrounding vapor, and thus successive stratiform rainfall results in decreasing isotope values in the middle and lower troposphere. On the basis of these characteristics, isotope tracers can be used to partition stratiform and convective rainfall from observed isotope data and to validate the simulated proportions of convective/stratiform rainfall.