The Maldives will host the first in-depth study of equatorial tropical storms between the Maldives and Papua New Guinea, conducted by two dozen research organisations from 16 countries and based on Gan in Addu Atoll.
The team will use airplanes, ships, radars, and approximately 1,500 weather balloons to study the birth, life and death of tropical storms along the equator, particularly the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). These storms affect weather world wide.
Maldives Meteorology Services (MMS) are local sponsors of the project, which was designed by the US Energy Department’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) climate research facility. MMS is providing local weather knowledge, meeting and operations space, and facilities; researchers in turn will offer training on radar and other instrumentation to local meteorologists.
According to the ARM facility, MJO dominates “tropical intraseasonal variability” but few climate models are able to predicts its effects. “AMIE-Gan will measure the area where the MJO begins its eastward propagation, observing the atmosphere, ocean, and air-sea interface,” the facility states.
The MJO affects regional weather patterns such as the Asian and Australian monsoons. Initiating every 30 to 90 days, it can also contribute to hurricane activity in the northeast Pacific and Gulf of Mexico, as well as trigger torrential rainfall along North America’s west coast.
MJO can also affect the periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean known as El Nino, which disturbs rain patterns.
MMS Deputy Director General Ali Sharif said the Maldives was strategically chosen.
“The Maldives was selected because the team is looking for the weather phenomenon Madden-Julian Oscillation. The team chose Addu because it is the closest location to the equator in the Maldives.”
The project’s main observation sites will be based in the Maldives, Diego Garcia, the maritime continent, and Manu Island. The Maldives’ Super Site with a majority of radar equipment will be at Gan, and research ships and aircraft will operate in the Indian Ocean as well.
Radar and other equipment have been set up along an 8 kilometre path in the atoll. A meteorological array will use seven different frequencies to scan clouds and precipitation from the Super Site at Gan.
Results gathered at Gan under the AMIE-Gan project will complement results gathered at Manus under the AMIE-Manus project to “allow studies of the initiation, propagation, and evolution of convective clouds within the framework of the MJO,” ARM states.
Sharif said the project could add valuable knowledge to regional climate change.
“It is becoming more important to understand how oceans regulate the earth’s temperature.” Sharif added that the Maldives temperatures have seen a minor “rising trend.”
The AMIE project is operating under the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), a facility of the U. S. Department of Energy. AMIE team leader Chuck Long said conditions in the Indian Ocean remain relatively mysterious.
“The MJO fires up primarily in the Indian Ocean during winter in the northern hemisphere, covering an area several thousand kilometers across. It moves eastward and when it hits the maritime continent — all those islands in Southeast Asia, it weakens. Why?” asked Long. “And why does it initiate in the Indian, not in the equatorial Atlantic or Pacific? What is so special about the conditions in the Indian Ocean? These are some of the questions we must answer to understand the MJO and represent it in forecast and climate models.”
AMIE will be working with two other research collaborations during this Indian Ocean campaign, Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) and Cooperative Indian Ocean Experiment on Intraseasonal Variability in the Year 2011 (CINDY). DYNAMO’s team is being led by the University of Miami. CINDY is an overarching international effort and is being led by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology.
Research staff and/or facilities have been contributed by Australia, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. US scientists, students, engineers, and staff from 16 universities and 11 national laboratories and centers are participating in the field campaign.
The investigation experiment (AMIE) is scheduled to start in October and run through March 2012. Opening ceremonies on October 8 will celebrate the international cooperation behind the project, which PNNL said will lead to a better understanding of Earth’s climate.