Response to Perturbations

Detection and attribution studies have played a major role in shaping contemporary climate science and have provided key motivations supporting global climate policy negotiations. Their goal is to associate unambiguously observed patterns of climate change with anthropogenic and natural forcings acting as drivers through the so-called optimal fingerprinting method. We show here how response theory for nonequilibrium systems provides the physical and dynamical foundations behind optimal fingerprinting for the climate change detection and attribution problem, including the notion of causality used for attribution purposes. We clearly frame assumptions, strengths, and potential pitfalls of the method. Additionally, we clarify the mathematical framework behind the degenerate fingerprinting method that leads to early warning indicators for tipping points. Finally, we extend the optimal fingerprinting method to the regime of nonlinear response. Our findings indicate that optimal fingerprinting for detection and attribution can be applied to virtually any stochastic system undergoing time-dependent forcing.
Chekroun, Mickaël D., Honghu Liu, and James C. McWilliams. 2023. “Optimal parameterizing manifolds for anticipating tipping points and higher-order critical transitions.” Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science 33 (9): 093126. Publisher's Version Abstract
A general, variational approach to derive low-order reduced models from possibly non-autonomous systems is presented. The approach is based on the concept of optimal parameterizing manifold (OPM) that substitutes more classical notions of invariant or slow manifolds when the breakdown of “slaving” occurs, i.e., when the unresolved variables cannot be expressed as an exact functional of the resolved ones anymore. The OPM provides, within a given class of parameterizations of the unresolved variables, the manifold that averages out optimally these variables as conditioned on the resolved ones. The class of parameterizations retained here is that of continuous deformations of parameterizations rigorously valid near the onset of instability. These deformations are produced through the integration of auxiliary backward–forward systems built from the model’s equations and lead to analytic formulas for parameterizations. In this modus operandi, the backward integration time is the key parameter to select per scale/variable to parameterize in order to derive the relevant parameterizations which are doomed to be no longer exact away from instability onset due to the breakdown of slaving typically encountered, e.g., for chaotic regimes. The selection criterion is then made through data-informed minimization of a least-square parameterization defect. It is thus shown through optimization of the backward integration time per scale/variable to parameterize, that skilled OPM reduced systems can be derived for predicting with accuracy higher-order critical transitions or catastrophic tipping phenomena, while training our parameterization formulas for regimes prior to these transitions takes place.
Lucarini, Valerio, and Mickaël D. Chekroun. 2023. “Theoretical tools for understanding the climate crisis from Hasselmann’s programme and beyond.” Nature Review Physics 5: 744-765 . Publisher's link Abstract
Klaus Hasselmann’s revolutionary intuition in climate science was to use the stochasticity associated with fast weather processes to probe the slow dynamics of the climate system. Doing so led to fundamentally new ways to study the response of climate models to perturbations, and to perform detection and attribution for climate change signals. Hasselmann’s programme has been extremely influential in climate science and beyond. In this Perspective, we first summarize the main aspects of such a programme using modern concepts and tools of statistical physics and applied mathematics. We then provide an overview of some promising scientific perspectives that might clarify the science behind the climate crisis and that stem from Hasselmann’s ideas. We show how to perform rigorous and data-driven model reduction by constructing parameterizations in systems that do not necessarily feature a timescale separation between unresolved and resolved processes. We outline a general theoretical framework for explaining the relationship between climate variability and climate change, and for performing climate change projections. This framework enables us seamlessly to explain some key general aspects of climatic tipping points. Finally, we show that response theory provides a solid framework supporting optimal fingerprinting methods for detection and attribution.
Chekroun, Mickaël D., Ilan Koren, Honghu Liu, and Huan Liu. 2022. “Generic generation of noise-driven chaos in stochastic time delay systems: Bridging the gap with high-end simulations.” Science Advances 8 (46): eabq7137. Publisher's Version Abstract

Nonlinear time delay systems produce inherently delay-induced periodic oscillations, which are, however, too idealistic compared to observations. We exhibit a unified stochastic framework to systematically rectify such oscillations into oscillatory patterns with enriched temporal variabilities through generic, nonlinear responses to stochastic perturbations. Two paradigms of noise-driven chaos in high dimension are identified, fundamentally different from chaos triggered by parameter-space noise. Noteworthy is a low-dimensional stretch-and-fold mechanism, leading to stochastic strange attractors exhibiting horseshoe-like structures mirroring turbulent transport of passive tracers. The other is high-dimensional , with noise acting along the critical eigendirection and transmitted to deeperstable modes through nonlinearity, leading to stochastic attractors exhibiting swarm-like behaviors with power-law and scale break properties. The theory is applied to cloud delay models to parameterize missing physics such as intermittent rain and Lagrangian turbulent effects. The stochastically rectified model reproduces with fidelity complex temporal variabilities of open-cell oscillations exhibited by high-end cloud simulations.

Charó, Gisela D., Mickaël D. Chekroun, Denisse Sciamarella, and Michael Ghil. 2021. “Noise-driven topological changes in chaotic dynamics.” Chaos 31 (10): 103115. Publisher's Version Abstract

Noise modifies the behavior of chaotic systems in both quantitative and qualitative ways. To study these modifications, the present work compares the topological structure of the deterministic Lorenz (1963) attractor with its stochastically perturbed version. The deterministic attractor is well known to be “strange” but it is frozen in time. When driven by multiplicative noise, the Lorenz model’s random attractor (LORA) evolves in time. Algebraic topology sheds light on the most striking effects involved in such an evolution. In order to examine the topological structure of the snapshots that approximate LORA, we use branched manifold analysis through homologies—a technique originally introduced to characterize the topological structure of deterministically chaotic flows—which is being extended herein to nonlinear noise-driven systems. The analysis is performed for a fixed realization of the driving noise at different time instants in time. The results suggest that LORA’s evolution includes sharp transitions that appear as topological tipping points.

Chekroun, Mickaël D., and Honghu Liu. 2020. “Optimal management of harvested population at the edge of extinction.” Advances in Nonlinear Biological Systems: Modeling and Optimal Control, J. Kotas (Ed.)., 11: 35-72. AIMS Applied Mathematics Book series. ISBN-10 : 1-60133-025-1, ISBN-13 : 978-1-60133-025-3. arXiv version Abstract

Optimal control of harvested population at the edge of extinction in an unprotected area, is considered. The underlying population dynamics is governed by a Kolmogorov-Petrovsky-Piskunov equation with a harvesting term and space-dependent coefficients while the control consists of transporting individuals from a natural reserve. The nonlinear optimal control problem is approximated by means of a Galerkin scheme. Convergence result about the optimal controlled solutions and error estimates between the corresponding optimal controls, are derived. For certain parameter regimes, nearly optimal solutions are calculated from a simple logistic ordinary differential equation (ODE) with a harvesting term, obtained as a Galerkin approximation of the original partial differential equation (PDE) model. A critical allowable fraction of the reserve's population is inferred from the reduced logistic ODE with a harvesting term. This estimate obtained from the reduced model allows us to distinguish sharply between survival and extinction for the full PDE itself, and thus to declare whether a control strategy leads to success or failure for the corresponding rescue operation while ensuring survival in the reserve's population. In dynamical terms, this result illustrates that although continuous dependence on the forcing may hold on finite-time intervals, a high sensitivity in the system's response may occur in the asymptotic time. We believe that this work, by its generality, establishes bridges interesting to explore between optimal control problems of ODEs with a harvesting term and their PDE counterpart.


Pierini, Stefano, Mickaël D. Chekroun, and Michael Ghil. 2018. “The onset of chaos in nonautonomous dissipative dynamical systems: a low-order ocean-model case study.” Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics 25: 671-692. Publisher's Version Abstract

A four-dimensional nonlinear spectral ocean model is used to study the transition to chaos induced by periodic forcing in systems that are nonchaotic in the autonomous limit. The analysis relies on the construction of the system’s pullback attractors (PBAs) through ensemble simulations, based on a large number of initial states in the remote past. A preliminary analysis of the autonomous system is carried out by investigating its bifurcation diagram, as well as by calculating a metric that measures the mean distance between two initially nearby trajectories, along with the system’s entropy. We find that nonchaotic attractors can still exhibit sensitive dependence on initial data over some time interval; this apparent paradox is resolved by noting that the dependence only concerns the phase of the periodic trajectories, and that it disappears once the latter have converged onto the attractor. The periodically forced system, analyzed by the same methods, yields periodic or chaotic PBAs depending on the periodic forcing’s amplitude ε. A new diagnostic method – based on the cross-correlation between two initially nearby trajectories – is proposed to characterize the transition between the two types of behavior. Transition to chaos is found to occur abruptly at a critical value εc and begins with the intermittent emergence of periodic oscillations with distinct phases. The same diagnostic method is finally shown to be a useful tool for autonomous and aperiodically forced systems as well.

Chekroun, Mickaël D. 2018. “Topological instabilities in families of semilinear parabolic problems subject to nonlinear perturbations.” Discrete and Continuous Dynamical Systems B, doi: 10.3934/dcdsb.2018075. Publisher's version Abstract

In this article it is proved that the dynamical properties of a broad class of semilinear parabolic problems are sensitive to arbitrarily small but smooth perturbations of the nonlinear term, when the spatial dimension is either equal to one or two. This topological instability is shown to result from a local deformation of the global bifurcation diagram associated with the corresponding elliptic problems. Such a deformation is shown to systematically occur via the creation of either a multiple-point or a new fold-point on this diagram when an appropriate small perturbation is applied to the nonlinear term. More precisely, it is shown that for a broad class of nonlinear elliptic problems, one can always find an arbitrary small perturbation of the nonlinear term, that generates a local S on the bifurcation diagram whereas the latter is e.g. monotone when no perturbation is applied; substituting thus a single solution by several ones. Such an increase in the local multiplicity of the solutions to the elliptic problem results then into a topological instability for the corresponding parabolic problem.
The rigorous proof of the latter instability result requires though to revisit the classical concept of topological equivalence to encompass important cases for the applications such as semi-linear parabolic problems for which the semigroup may exhibit non-global dissipative properties, allowing for the coexistence of blow-up regions and local attractors in the phase space; cases that arise e.g. in combustion theory. A revised framework of topological robustness is thus introduced in that respect within which the main topological instability result is then proved for continuous, locally Lipschitz but not necessarily C1 nonlinear terms, that prevent in particular the use of linearization techniques, and for which the family of semigroups may exhibit non-dissipative properties.

Chekroun, Mickaël D., Axel Kröner, and Honghu Liu. 2018. “Galerkin approximations for the optimal control of nonlinear delay differential equations.” Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman Equations. Numerical Methods and Applications in Optimal Control, D. Kalise, K. Kunisch, and Z. Rao, 21: 61-96. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. Publisher's version Abstract

Optimal control problems of nonlinear delay  equations (DDEs) are considered for which we propose a general Galerkin approximation scheme built from Koornwinder polynomials. Error estimates for the resulting Galerkin-Koornwinder approximations to the optimal control and the value function, are derived for a broad class of cost functionals and nonlinear DDEs. The approach is illustrated on a delayed logistic equation set not far away from its Hopf bifurcation point in the parameter space. In this case, we show that low-dimensional controls for a standard quadratic cost functional can be efficiently computed from Galerkin-Koornwinder approximations to reduce at a nearly optimal cost the oscillation amplitude displayed by the DDE's solution. Optimal controls computed from the Pontryagin's maximum principle (PMP) and the Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman equation (HJB) associated with the corresponding ODE systems, are shown to provide numerical solutions in good agreement. It is finally argued that the value function computed from the  corresponding reduced HJB equation provides a good approximation of that obtained from the full HJB equation.

Value function solving the reduced HJB equation

Chekroun, Mickaël D., Michael Ghil, and J. David Neelin. 2018. “Pullback attractor crisis in a delay differential ENSO model.” Advances in Nonlinear Geosciences, A. Tsonis, 1-33. Springer. Publisher's version Abstract

We study the pullback attractor (PBA) of a seasonally forced delay differential model for the El Ni\~no--Southern Oscillation (ENSO); the model has two delays, associated with a positive and a negative feedback. The control parameter is the intensity of the positive feedback and the PBA undergoes a crisis that consists of a chaos-to-chaos transition. Since  the PBA is dominated by chaotic behavior, we refer to it as a strange PBA. Both chaotic regimes correspond to an overlapping of resonances but the two differ by the properties of this overlapping. The crisis manifests itself by a brutal change not only in the size but also in the shape of the PBA. The change is associated with the sudden disappearance of the most extreme warm (El Ni\~no) and cold (La Ni\~na) events, as one crosses the critical parameter value from below.  The analysis reveals that regions of the strange PBA that survive the crisis are those populated by the most probable states of the system. These regions are those that exhibit robust foldings with respect to perturbations.  The effect of noise on this phase-and-paramater space behavior is then discussed. It is shown that the chaos-to-chaos crisis may or may not survive the addition of small noise to the evolution equation, depending on how the noise enters the latter.



Chekroun, Mickaël D., Axel Kröner, and Honghu Liu. 2017. “Galerkin approximations of nonlinear optimal control problems in Hilbert spaces.” Electronic Journal of Differential Equations 2017 (189): 1-40. Publisher's version Abstract

Nonlinear optimal control problems in Hilbert spaces are considered for which we derive approximation theorems for Galerkin approximations. Approximation theorems are available in the literature. The originality of our approach
relies on the identification of a set of natural assumptions that allows us to deal with a broad class of nonlinear evolution equations and cost functionals for which we derive convergence of the value functions associated with the optimal control problem of the Galerkin approximations. This convergence result holds for a broad class of nonlinear control strategies as well. In particular, we show that the framework applies to the optimal control of semilinear heat equations posed on a general compact manifold without boundary.   The framework is then shown to apply to geoengineering and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions formulated here in terms of optimal control of energy balance climate models posed on the sphere S2.  

Chekroun, Mickaël D., Eunhee Park, and Roger Temam. 2016. “The Stampacchia maximum principle for stochastic partial differential equations and applications.” Journal of Differential Equations 260 (3): 2926 - 2972. Publisher's Version Abstract
Abstract Stochastic partial differential equations (SPDEs) are considered, linear and nonlinear, for which we establish comparison theorems for the solutions, or positivity results a.e., and a.s., for suitable data. Comparison theorems for \SPDEs\ are available in the literature. The originality of our approach is that it is based on the use of truncations, following the Stampacchia approach to maximum principle. We believe that our method, which does not rely too much on probability considerations, is simpler than the existing approaches and to a certain extent, more directly applicable to concrete situations. Among the applications, boundedness results and positivity results are respectively proved for the solutions of a stochastic Boussinesq temperature equation, and of reaction–diffusion equations perturbed by a non-Lipschitz nonlinear noise. Stabilization results to a Chafee–Infante equation perturbed by a nonlinear noise are also derived.
Pierini, S., M. Ghil, and M. Chekroun. 2016. “Exploring the pullback attractors of a low-order quasigeostrophic ocean model: the deterministic case.” Journal of Climate 29 (11): 4185-4202. Publisher's Version Abstract

A low-order quasigeostrophic double-gyre ocean model is subjected to an aperiodic forcing that mimics time dependence dominated by interdecadal variability. This model is used as a prototype of an unstable and nonlinear dynamical system with time-dependent forcing to explore basic features of climate change in the presence of natural variability. The study relies on the theoretical framework of nonautonomous dynamical systems and of their pullback attractors (PBAs), that is, of the time-dependent invariant sets attracting all trajectories initialized in the remote past. The existence of a global PBA is rigorously demonstrated for this weakly dissipative nonlinear model. Ensemble simulations are carried out and the convergence to PBAs is assessed by computing the probability density function (PDF) of localization of the trajectories. A sensitivity analysis with respect to forcing amplitude shows that the PBAs experience large modifications if the underlying autonomous system is dominated by small-amplitude limit cycles, while less dramatic changes occur in a regime characterized by large-amplitude relaxation oscillations. The dependence of the attracting sets on the choice of the ensemble of initial states is then analyzed. Two types of basins of attraction coexist for certain parameter ranges; they contain chaotic and nonchaotic trajectories, respectively. The statistics of the former does not depend on the initial states whereas the trajectories in the latter converge to small portions of the global PBA. This complex scenario requires separate PDFs for chaotic and nonchaotic trajectories. General implications for climate predictability are finally discussed.

Chekroun, M. D., and H. Liu. 2016. “Post-processing finite-horizon parameterizing manifolds for optimal control of nonlinear parabolic PDEs.” 2016 IEEE 55th Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), 1411-1416. Las Vegas, USA: IEEE. Publisher's version Abstract

The goal of this article is to propose an efficient way of empirically improving suboptimal solutions designed from the recent method of finite-horizon parameterizing manifolds (PMs) introduced by Chekroun and Liu (Acta Appl. Math., 2015) and concerned with the (sub)optimal control of nonlinear parabolic partial differential equations (PDEs). Given a finite horizon [0, T ] and a reduced low-mode phase space, a finite-horizon PM provides an approximate parameterization of the high modes by the low ones so that the unexplained high-mode energy is reduced — in an L 2-sense — when this parameterization is applied. In Chekroun and Liu (Acta Appl. Math., 2015), various PMs were constructed analytically from the uncontrolled version of the underlying PDE that allow for the design of reduced systems from which low-dimensional suboptimal controllers can be efficiently synthesized. In this article, the analytic approach from Chekroun and Liu (Acta Appl. Math., 2015) is recalled and a post-processing procedure is introduced to improve the PM-based suboptimal controllers. It consists of seeking for a high-mode parametrization aiming to reduce the energy contained in the high modes of the PDE solution, when the latter is driven by a PM-based suboptimal controller. This is achieved by solving simple regression problems. The skills of the resulting empirically post-processed suboptimal controllers are numerically assessed for an optimal control problem associated with a Burgers-type equation.

Chekroun, Mickaël D., and Honghu Liu. 2015. “Finite-Horizon Parameterizing Manifolds, and Applications to Suboptimal Control of Nonlinear Parabolic PDEs.” Acta Applicandae Mathematicae 135 (1): 81–144. Publisher's Version Abstract

This article proposes a new approach based on finite-horizon parameterizing manifolds (PMs) for the design of low-dimensional suboptimal controllers to optimal control problems of nonlinear partial differential equations (PDEs) of parabolic type. Given a finite horizon [0,T] and a low-mode truncation of the PDE, a PM provides an approximate parameterization of the uncontrolled high modes by the controlled low ones so that the unexplained high-mode energy is reduced, in an L2-sense, when this parameterization is applied. Analytic formulas of such PMs are derived by application of the method of pullback approximation of the high-modes. These formulas allow for an effective derivation of reduced ODE systems, aimed to model the evolution of the low-mode truncation of the controlled state variable, where the high-mode part is approximated by the PM function applied to the low modes. A priori error estimates between the resulting PM-based low-dimensional suboptimal controller u_R* and the optimal controller u* are derived. These estimates demonstrate that the closeness of u_R* to u*? is mainly conditioned on two factors: (i) the parameterization defect of a given PM, associated respectively with u_R* and u*; and (ii) the energy kept in the high modes of the PDE solution either driven by u_R* or u* itself. The practical performances of such PM-based suboptimal controllers are numerically assessed for various optimal control problems associated with a Burgers-type equation. The numerical results show that a PM-based reduced system allows for the design of suboptimal controllers with good performances provided that the associated parameterization defects and energy kept in the high modes are small enough, in agreement with the rigorous results. The practical performances of such PM-based suboptimal controllers are numerically assessed for optimal control problems associated with a Burgers-type equation; the locally as well as globally distributed cases being both considered. The numerical results show that a PM-based reduced system allows for the design of suboptimal controllers with good performances provided that the associated parameterization defects and energy kept in the high modes are small enough, in agreement with the rigorous results.

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.


Chekroun, M. D., and J. Roux. 2013. “Homeomorphisms group of normed vector spaces : The conjugacy problem and the Koopman operator.” Discrete and Continuous Dynamical Systems (DCDS-A) 33 (9): 3957—3950. Publisher's Version Abstract

This article is concerned with conjugacy problems arising in the homeomorphisms group, Hom(F), of unbounded subsets F of normed vector spaces E. Given two homeomorphisms f and g in Hom(F), it is shown how the existence of a conjugacy may be related to the existence of a common generalized eigenfunction of the associated Koopman operators. This common eigenfunction serves to build a topology on Hom(F), where the conjugacy is obtained as limit of a sequence generated by the conjugacy operator, when this limit exists. The main conjugacy theorem is presented in a class of generalized Lipeomorphisms.

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.

Roques, Lionel, and M. D. Chekroun. 2010. “Does reaction-diffusion support the duality of fragmentation effect?” Ecological Complexity 7 (1): 100 - 106. Publisher's Version Abstract

There is a gap between single-species model predictions, and empirical studies, regarding the effect of habitat fragmentation per se, i.e., a process involving the breaking apart of habitat without loss of habitat. Empirical works indicate that fragmentation can have positive as well as negative effects, whereas, traditionally, single-species models predict a negative effect of fragmentation. Within the class of reaction-diffusion models, studies almost unanimously predict such a detrimental effect. In this paper, considering a single-species reaction-diffusion model with a removal – or similarly harvesting – term, in two dimensions, we find both positive and negative effects of fragmentation of the reserves, i.e., the protected regions where no removal occurs. Fragmented reserves lead to higher population sizes for time-constant removal terms. On the other hand, when the removal term is proportional to the population density, higher population sizes are obtained on aggregated reserves, but maximum yields are attained on fragmented configurations, and for intermediate harvesting intensities.

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.