Earth Science

Chekroun, M. D., J. D. Neelin, D. Kondrashov, J. C. McWilliams, and M. Ghil. 2014. “Rough parameter dependence in climate models and the role of Ruelle-Pollicott resonance.” Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (5): 1684—1690. Publisher's Version Abstract

Despite the importance of uncertainties encountered in climate model simulations, the fundamental mechanisms at the origin of sensitive behavior of long-term model statistics remain unclear. Variability of turbulent flows in the atmosphere and oceans exhibits recurrent large-scale patterns. These patterns, while evolving irregularly in time, manifest characteristic frequencies across a large range of time scales, from intraseasonal through interdecadal. Based on modern spectral theory of chaotic and dissipative dynamical systems, the associated low-frequency variability may be formulated in terms of Ruelle-Pollicott (RP) resonances. RP resonances encode information on the nonlinear dynamics of the system, and an approach for estimating them—as filtered through an observable of the system—is proposed. This approach relies on an appropriate Markov representation of the dynamics associated with a given observable. It is shown that, within this representation, the spectral gap—defined as the distance between the subdominant RP resonance and the unit circle—plays a major role in the roughness of parameter dependences. The model statistics are the most sensitive for the smallest spectral gaps; such small gaps turn out to correspond to regimes where the low-frequency variability is more pronounced, whereas autocorrelations decay more slowly. The present approach is applied to analyze the rough parameter dependence encountered in key statistics of an El-Niño–Southern Oscillation model of intermediate complexity. Theoretical arguments, however, strongly suggest that such links between model sensitivity and the decay of correlation properties are not limited to this particular model and could hold much more generally.


Kondrashov, K., M. D. Chekroun, A. W. Robertson, and M. Ghil. 2013. “Low-order stochastic model and “past-noise forecasting” of the Madden-Julian oscillation.” Geophysical Research Letters 40 (19): 5303—5310. Publisher's Version Abstract

This paper presents a predictability study of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) that relies on combining empirical model reduction (EMR) with the “past-noise forecasting” (PNF) method. EMR is a data-driven methodology for constructing stochastic low-dimensional models that account for nonlinearity, seasonality and serial correlation in the estimated noise, while PNF constructs an ensemble of forecasts that accounts for interactions between (i) high-frequency variability (noise), estimated here by EMR, and (ii) the low-frequency mode of MJO, as captured by singular spectrum analysis (SSA). A key result is that—compared to an EMR ensemble driven by generic white noise—PNF is able to considerably improve prediction of MJO phase. When forecasts are initiated from weak MJO conditions, the useful skill is of up to 30 days. PNF also significantly improves MJO prediction skill for forecasts that start over the Indian Ocean.

Chekroun, M. D., D. Kondrashov, and M. Ghil. 2011. “Predicting stochastic systems by noise sampling, and application to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation.” Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences 108 (29): 11766—11771. Publisher's Version Abstract

Interannual and interdecadal prediction are major challenges of climate dynamics. In this article we develop a prediction method for climate processes that exhibit low-frequency variability (LFV). The method constructs a nonlinear stochastic model from past observations and estimates a path of the “weather” noise that drives this model over previous finite-time windows. The method has two steps: (i) select noise samples—or “snippets”—from the past noise, which have forced the system during short-time intervals that resemble the LFV phase just preceding the currently observed state; and (ii) use these snippets to drive the system from the current state into the future. The method is placed in the framework of pathwise linear-response theory and is then applied to an El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) model derived by the empirical model reduction (EMR) methodology; this nonlinear model has 40 coupled, slow, and fast variables. The domain of validity of this forecasting procedure depends on the nature of the system’s pathwise response; it is shown numerically that the ENSO model’s response is linear on interannual time scales. As a result, the method’s skill at a 6- to 16-month lead is highly competitive when compared with currently used dynamic and statistic prediction methods for the Niño-3 index and the global sea surface temperature field.

Chekroun, Mickaël D., Eric Simonnet, and Michael Ghil. 2011. “Stochastic climate dynamics: Random attractors and time-dependent invariant measures.” Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena 240 (21): 1685 - 1700. Publisher's Version Abstract

This article attempts a unification of the two approaches that have dominated theoretical climate dynamics since its inception in the 1960s: the nonlinear deterministic and the linear stochastic one. This unification, via the theory of random dynamical systems (RDS), allows one to consider the detailed geometric structure of the random attractors associated with nonlinear, stochastically perturbed systems. We report on high-resolution numerical studies of two idealized models of fundamental interest for climate dynamics. The first of the two is a stochastically forced version of the classical Lorenz model. The second one is a low-dimensional, nonlinear stochastic model of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). These studies provide a good approximation of the two models’ global random attractors, as well as of the time-dependent invariant measures supported by these attractors; the latter are shown to have an intuitive physical interpretation as random versions of Sinaï–Ruelle–Bowen (SRB) measures.

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Ghil, Michael, Mickaël D. Chekroun, and Eric Simonnet. 2008. “Climate dynamics and fluid mechanics: Natural variability and related uncertainties.” Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena 237 (14–17): 2111 - 2126. Publisher's Version Abstract
The purpose of this review-and-research paper is twofold: (i) to review the role played in climate dynamics by fluid-dynamical models; and (ii) to contribute to the understanding and reduction of the uncertainties in future climate-change projections. To illustrate the first point, we review recent theoretical advances in studying the wind-driven circulation of the oceans. In doing so, we concentrate on the large-scale, wind-driven flow of the mid-latitude oceans, which is dominated by the presence of a larger, anticyclonic and a smaller, cyclonic gyre. The two gyres share the eastward extension of western boundary currents, such as the Gulf Stream or Kuroshio, and are induced by the shear in the winds that cross the respective ocean basins. The boundary currents and eastward jets carry substantial amounts of heat and momentum, and thus contribute in a crucial way to Earth’s climate, and to changes therein. Changes in this double-gyre circulation occur from year to year and decade to decade. We study this low-frequency variability of the wind-driven, double-gyre circulation in mid-latitude ocean basins, via the bifurcation sequence that leads from steady states through periodic solutions and on to the chaotic, irregular flows documented in the observations. This sequence involves local, pitchfork and Hopf bifurcations, as well as global, homoclinic ones. The natural climate variability induced by the low-frequency variability of the ocean circulation is but one of the causes of uncertainties in climate projections. The range of these uncertainties has barely decreased, or even increased, over the last three decades. Another major cause of such uncertainties could reside in the structural instability–in the classical, topological sense–of the equations governing climate dynamics, including but not restricted to those of atmospheric and ocean dynamics. We propose a novel approach to understand, and possibly reduce, these uncertainties, based on the concepts and methods of random dynamical systems theory. The idea is to compare the climate simulations of distinct general circulation models (GCMs) used in climate projections, by applying stochastic-conjugacy methods and thus perform a stochastic classification of \GCM\ families. This approach is particularly appropriate given recent interest in stochastic parametrization of subgrid-scale processes in GCMs. As a very first step in this direction, we study the behavior of the Arnol’d family of circle maps in the presence of noise. The maps’ fine-grained resonant landscape is smoothed by the noise, thus permitting their coarse-grained classification.