Atmosphere & climate

Feliks Y, Ghil M, Robertson AW. Oscillatory Climate Modes in the Eastern Mediterranean and Their Synchronization with the North Atlantic Oscillation. Journal of Climate. 2010;23 (15) :4060–4079.Abstract

Oscillatory climatic modes over the North Atlantic, Ethiopian Plateau, and eastern Mediterranean were examined in instrumental and proxy records from these regions. Aside from the well-known North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index and the Nile River water-level records, the authors study for the first time an instrumental rainfall record from Jerusalem and a tree-ring record from the Golan Heights. The teleconnections between the regions were studied in terms of synchronization of chaotic oscillators. Standard methods for studying synchronization among such oscillators are modified by combining them with advanced spectral methods, including singular spectrum analysis. The resulting cross-spectral analysis quantifies the strength of the coupling together with the degree of synchronization. A prominent oscillatory mode with a 7–8-yr period is present in all the climatic indices studied here and is completely synchronized with the North Atlantic Oscillation. An energy analysis of the synchronization raises the possibility that this mode originates in the North Atlantic. Evidence is discussed for this mode being induced by the 7–8-yr oscillation in the position of the Gulf Stream front. A mechanism for the teleconnections between the North Atlantic, Ethiopian Plateau, and eastern Mediterranean is proposed, and implications for interannual-to-decadal climate prediction are discussed.

de Viron O, Dickey JO, Ghil M. Global modes of climate variability. Geophysical Research Letters. 2013;40 (9) :1832-1837.Abstract

The atmosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere form a fully coupled climate system. This system exhibits a number of large-scale phenomena, such as the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Asian Monsoon, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). While these modes of variability are not exactly periodic, they are oscillatory in character, and their state is monitored using so-called climate indices. Each of these scalar indices is a combination of several climate variables. Here, we use a comprehensive set of 25 climate indices for time intervals that range between 1948 and 2011, and estimate an optimal set of lags between these indices to maximize their correlation. We show that most of the index pairs drawn from this set present a significant correlation on interannual time scales. It is also shown that, on average, about two-thirds of the total variability in each index can be described by using only the four leading principal components of the entire set of lagged indices. Our index set's leading orthogonal modes exhibit several interannual frequencies and capture separately variability associated with the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. These modes are associated, in turn, with large-scale variations of sea surface temperatures.

Kondrashov D, Feliks Y, Ghil M. Oscillatory modes of extended Nile River records (A.D. 622–1922). Geophysical Research Letters. 2005;32 (10) :L10702.Abstract

The historical records of the low- and high-water levels of the Nile River are among the longest climatic records that have near-annual resolution. There are few gaps in the first part of the records (A.D. 622-1470) and larger gaps later (A.D. 1471-1922). We apply advanced spectral methods, Singular-Spectrum Analysis (SSA) and the Multi-Taper Method (MTM), to fill the gaps and to locate interannual and interdecadal periodicities. The gap filling uses a novel, iterative version of SSA. Our analysis reveals several statistically significant features of the records: a nonlinear, data-adaptive trend that includes a 256-year cycle, a quasi-quadriennial (4.2-year) and a quasi-biennial (2.2-year) mode, as well as additional periodicities of 64, 19, 12, and, most strikingly, 7 years. The quasi-quadriennial and quasi-biennial modes support the long-established connection between the Nile River discharge and the El-Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. The longest periods might be of astronomical origin. The 7-year periodicity, possibly related to the biblical cycle of lean and fat years, seems to be due to North Atlantic influences.

Legras B, Ghil M. Persistent anomalies, blocking and variations in atmospheric predictability. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. 1985;42 (5) :433–471.Abstract

We consider regimes of low-frequency variability in large-scale atmospheric dynamics. The model used for the study of these regimes is the fully-nonlinear, equivalent-barotropic vorticity equation on the sphere, with simplified forcing, dissipation and topography. Twenty-five modes are retained in a spherical harmonics expansion of the streamfunction. Solutions are studied as a function of the nondimensional intensity of the forcing and dissipation.Multiple stationary solutions are obtained as a result of nonlinear interaction between waves, mean flow and orography. The number of modes retained in the analysis permits these multiple equilibria to appear for realistic values of the forcing. The equilibria exhibit blocked and zonal flow patterns bearing a marked resemblance to synoptically defined zonal and blocked Northern Hemisphere midlatitude flows.Wave-wave interactions influence strongly the stability properties of the equilibria and the time evolution of nonequilibrium solutions. Time-dependent solutions show persistent sequences which occur in the phase-space vicinity of the zonal and blocked equilibria. Composite flow patterns of the persistent sequences are similar to the equilibria nearby, which permits the unambiguous definition of quasi-stationary flow regimes, zonal and blocked, respectively. The number of episodes of blocked or zonal flow decreases monotonically as their duration increases, in agreement with observations.The statistics of transitions between the two types of planetary flow regimes are computed from the model's deterministic dynamics. These transitional called breaks in statistical-synoptic long-range forecasting, are shown to be influenced by changes in model parameters. This influence is discussed in terms of the effect of anomalous boundary conditions on large-scale midlatitude atmospheric flow and on its predictability.

Ghil M, Vautard R. Interdecadal oscillations and the warming trend in global temperature time series. Nature. 1991;350 (6316) :324–327.Abstract

The ability to distinguish a warming trend from natural variability is critical for an understanding of the climatic response to increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations. Here we use singular spectrum analysis1 to analyse the time series of global surface air tem-peratures for the past 135 years2, allowing a secular warming trend and a small number of oscillatory modes to be separated from the noise. The trend is flat until 1910, with an increase of 0.4 °C since then. The oscillations exhibit interdecadal periods of 21 and 16 years, and interannual periods of 6 and 5 years. The interannual oscillations are probably related to global aspects of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon3. The interdecadal oscillations could be associated with changes in the extratropical ocean circulation4. The oscillatory components have combined (peak-to-peak) amplitudes of >0.2 °C, and therefore limit our ability to predict whether the inferred secular warming trend of 0.005 °Cyr-1 will continue. This could postpone incontrovertible detection of the greenhouse warming signal for one or two decades.

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