Stochastic and Nonlinear Climate Dynamics

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.