Atmosphere & climate

Moron V, Vautard R, Ghil M. Trends, interdecadal and interannual oscillations in global sea-surface temperatures. Climate Dynamics. 1998;14 (7) :545–569.Abstract

This study aims at a global description of climatic phenomena that exhibit some regularity during the twentieth century. Multi-channel singular spectrum analysis is used to extract long-term trends and quasi-regular oscillations of global sea-surface temperature (SST) fields since 1901. Regional analyses are also performed on the Pacific, (Northern and Southern) Atlantic, and Indian Ocean basins. The strongest climatic signal is the irregular long-term trend, characterized by overall warming during 1910–1940 and since 1975, with cooling (especially of the Northern Hemisphere) between these two warming intervals. Substantial cooling prevailed in the North Pacific between 1950 and 1980, and continues in the North Atlantic today. Both cooling and warming are preceded by SST anomalies of the same sign in the subpolar North Atlantic. Near-decadal oscillations are present primarily over the North Atlantic, but also over the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. A 13–15-y oscillation exhibits a seesaw pattern between the Gulf-Stream region and the North-Atlantic Drift and affects also the tropical Atlantic. Another 7–8-y oscillation involves the entire double-gyre circulation of the North Atlantic, being mostly of one sign across the basin, with a minor maximum of opposite sign in the subpolar gyre and the major maximum in the northwestern part of the subtropical gyre. Three distinct interannual signals are found, with periods of about 60–65, 45 and 24–30 months. All three are strongest in the tropical Eastern Pacific. The first two extend throughout the whole Pacific and still exhibit some consistent, albeit weak, patterns in other ocean basins. The latter is weaker overall and has no consistent signature outside the Pacific. The 60-month oscillation obtains primarily before the 1960s and the 45-month oscillation afterwards.

Groth A, Ghil M. Monte Carlo Singular Spectrum Analysis (SSA) revisited: Detecting oscillator clusters in multivariate datasets. Journal of Climate. 2015;28 (19) :7873–7893.Abstract

Singular spectrum analysis (SSA) along with its multivariate extension (M-SSA) provides an efficient way to identify weak oscillatory behavior in high-dimensional data. To prevent the misinterpretation of stochastic fluctuations in short time series as oscillations, Monte Carlo (MC)–type hypothesis tests provide objective criteria for the statistical significance of the oscillatory behavior. Procrustes target rotation is introduced here as a key method for refining previously available MC tests. The proposed modification helps reduce the risk of type-I errors, and it is shown to improve the test’s discriminating power. The reliability of the proposed methodology is examined in an idealized setting for a cluster of harmonic oscillators immersed in red noise. Furthermore, the common method of data compression into a few leading principal components, prior to M-SSA, is reexamined, and its possibly negative effects are discussed. Finally, the generalized Procrustes test is applied to the analysis of interannual variability in the North Atlantic’s sea surface temperature and sea level pressure fields. The results of this analysis provide further evidence for shared mechanisms of variability between the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Oscillation in the interannual frequency band.

Ghil M, Robertson AW. ``Waves'' vs. ``particles'' in the atmosphere's phase space: A pathway to long-range forecasting?. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2002;99 :2493–2500.Abstract

Thirty years ago, E. N. Lorenz provided some approximate limits to atmospheric predictability. The details—in space and time—of atmospheric flow fields are lost after about 10 days. Certain gross flow features recur, however, after times of the order of 10–50 days, giving hope for their prediction. Over the last two decades, numerous attempts have been made to predict these recurrent features. The attempts have involved, on the one hand, systematic improvements in numerical weather prediction by increasing the spatial resolution and physical faithfulness in the detailed models used for this prediction. On the other hand, theoretical attempts motivated by the same goal have involved the study of the large-scale atmospheric motions’ phase space and the inhomoge- neities therein. These ‘‘coarse-graining’’ studies have addressed observed as well as simulated atmospheric data sets. Two distinct approaches have been used in these studies: the episodic or intermittent and the oscillatory or periodic. The intermittency approach describes multiple-flow (or weather) regimes, their per- sistence and recurrence, and the Markov chain of transitions among them. The periodicity approach studies intraseasonal oscil- lations, with periods of 15–70 days, and their predictability. We review these two approaches, ‘‘particles’’ vs. ‘‘waves,’’ in the quantum physics analogy alluded to in the title of this article, discuss their complementarity, and outline unsolved problems.

Plaut G, Ghil M, Vautard R. Interannual and Interdecadal Variability in 335 Years of Central England Temperatures. Science. 1995;268 (5211) :710–713.Abstract

Understanding the natural variability of climate is important for predicting its near-term evolution. Models of the oceans' thermohaline and wind-driven circulation show low-frequency oscillations. Long instrumental records can help validate the oscillatory behavior of these models. Singular spectrum analysis applied to the 335-year-long central England temperature (CET) record has identified climate oscillations with interannual (7- to 8-year) and interdecadal (15- and 25-year) periods, probably related to the North Atlantic's wind-driven and thermohaline circulation, respectively. Statistical prediction of oscillatory variability shows CETs decreasing toward the end of this decade and rising again into the middle of the next.

Feliks Y, Groth A, Robertson AW, Ghil M. Oscillatory Climate Modes in the Indian Monsoon, North Atlantic and Tropical Pacific. Journal of Climate. 2013;26 :9528-–9544.Abstract

This paper explores the three-way interactions between the Indian monsoon, the North Atlantic and the Tropical Pacific. Four climate records were analyzed: the monsoon rainfall in two Indian regions, the Southern Oscillation Index for the Tropical Pacific, and the NAO index for the North Atlantic. The individual records exhibit highly significant oscillatory modes with spectral peaks at 7–8 yr and in the quasi-biennial and quasi-quadrennial bands. The interactions between the three regions were investigated in the light of the synchronization theory of chaotic oscillators. The theory was applied here by combining multichannel singular-spectrum analysis (M-SSA) with a recently introduced varimax rotation of the M-SSA eigenvectors. A key result is that the 7–8-yr and 2.7-yr oscillatory modes in all three regions are synchronized, at least in part. The energy-ratio analysis, as well as time-lag results, suggest that the NAO plays a leading role in the 7–8-yr mode. It was found therewith that the South Asian monsoon is not slaved to forcing from the equatorial Pacific, although it does interact strongly with it. The time-lag analysis pinpointed this to be the case in particular for the quasi-biennial oscillatory modes. Overall, these results confirm that the approach of synchronized oscillators, combined with varimax-rotated M-SSA, is a powerful tool in studying teleconnections between regional climate modes and that it helps identify the mechanisms that operate in various frequency bands. This approach should be readily applicable to ocean modes of variability and to the problems of air-sea interaction as well.