Propagation of Intra-Seasonal Tropical Oscillations (PISTON)

Planning Letter Due Date: May 1, 2015

The purpose of this Office of Naval Research Departmental Research Initiative (DRI) is to improve our understanding and numerical simulation of multi-scale tropical convection and the role of air-sea and land-sea interactions in tropical archipelagos. Additionally, the role of these processes in the propagation speed, geographic placement and intensity of Boreal summer intraseasonal oscillation (BSISO) and Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO) evolution at longer lead times, in coupled mesoscale and synoptic prediction systems, across the Maritime Continent is of interest.

This new DRI is motivated by the predictability barrier observed in numerical simulations of the Madden-Julian oscillation and other intra-seasonal tropical oscillations as they propagate across the Maritime Continent (Ramage, 1968). The geographic focus of effort is the Philippine Archipelago at meso-synoptic scales. Collaboration with partner sponsors and countries in the broader region more relevant to climate and large-scale dynamics will be accomplished through the Year of the Maritime Convection (YMC) international initiative.

This project is expected to involve ship and airborne process-oriented field observations planned for late Summer and Fall 2018. It will tentatively be based out of the Philippines. Its scientific objective is to improve understanding of atmosphere-ocean-land interactions in tropical archipelagos that modulate and control the structure and propagation of intra-seasonal oscillations as they move from the Indian Ocean into the South China Sea and Western Pacific Ocean. A primary focus of the project will be improving our understanding and numerical simulation of multi-scale interactions between diurnally forced convection and the larger convective envelope, and the role of shallow marginal seas and highly variable land, sea surface, and atmospheric composition gradients in the details of the eastward propagation. Ocean coupling, terrain effects, and aerosol-cloud-microphysics in the physical domain, as well as diurnal or short duration transients in archipelagic waters and the lower and mid-troposphere in the temporal domain will be examined in the context of propagation and structure of the larger convective envelope. The ultimate goals of this project are to improve forecast skill of local weather phenomena, as well as propagation speed, geographic placement and intensity of the MJO at longer lead times, in coupled mesoscale and synoptic prediction systems.

This effort will potentially coordinate with CAMPEx and YMC observational campaigns to cover a broader area and to augment each group's planned contributions.

The DRI is expected to run for five years, from FY16 to FY20. Years one and two will focus on scientific theoretical development and supporting field experiment planning, science team building, developing inter-agency and international collaboration, and equipment development and testing. The major field effort will occur in year three (2018), followed by two option years of data analysis and synthesis of results. The overall effort will require integration of multiple components including theory, in situ and remote sensing observations, and modeling to accelerate discovery and understanding.

Planning letters for research to begin in FY16 that would be supported by Propagation of Intra-seasonal Tropical Oscillations DRI funds are desired. These letters allow prospective investigators to submit a brief description of their scientific ideas so that we may offer feedback on program and technical fit, and give some indication of likely success before time is invested in writing a full proposal.

Each individual or team of prospective investigators need not propose research addressing all possible components; indeed, this is discouraged. ONR will select the DRI team based on the quality and relevance of the research proposed for different components. Successful investigators will be expected to work productively and constructively in an inter-disciplinary team environment. Team-building will occur after selection, and will include participation in at least two team meetings each year.

Planning Letter Content

The letter should include:

  • Contact information for the principal and co-investigators, including full mailing address, e-mail address and phone number for each
  • A maximum 3-page synopsis of the proposed research, including a rationale, questions and/or hypotheses to be addressed, the methods to be used, and anticipated results
  • An estimated budget, with approximate cost per year
  • Up to one page of relevant references to the literature 
  • A 1-page biographical sketch for each investigator, with a focus on research activities and publications relevant to the proposed research.

Submission of Planning Letters

All planning letters should be submitted as PDF files no later than May 1, 2015 by e-mail to:
Drs. Daniel Eleuterio and Joel Feldmeier (

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