Ocean & coupled ocean

Chang K-I, Ghil M, Ide K, Lai C-CA. Transition to aperiodic variability in a wind-driven double-gyre circulation model. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 2001;31 (5) :1260–1286.Abstract

Multiple equilibria as well as periodic and aperiodic solution regimes are obtained in a barotropic model of the midlatitude ocean’s double-gyre circulation. The model circulation is driven by a steady zonal wind profile that is symmetric with respect to the square basin’s zonal axis of north–south symmetry, and dissipated by lateral friction. As the intensity of the wind forcing increases, an antisymmetric double-gyre flow evolves through a pitchfork bifurcation into a pair of steady mirror-symmetric solutions in which either the subtropical or the subpolar gyre dominates. In either one of the two asymmetric solutions, a pair of intense recirculation vortices forms close to and on either side of the point where the two western boundary currents merge to form the eastward jet. To the east of this dipole, a spatially damped stationary wave arises, and an increase in the steady forcing amplifies the meander immediately to the east of the recirculating vortices. During this process, the transport of the weaker gyre remains nearly constant while the transport of the stronger gyre increases. For even stronger forcing, the two steady solution branches undergo Hopf bifurcation, and each asymmetric solution gives rise to an oscillatory mode, whose subannual period is of 3.5–6 months. These two modes are also mirror-symmetric in space. The time-average difference in transport between the stronger and the weaker gyre is reduced as the forcing increases further, while the weaker gyre tends to oscillate with larger amplitude than the stronger gyre. Once the average strength of the weaker gyre on each branch equals the stronger gyre’s, the solution becomes aperiodic. The transition of aperiodic flow occurs through a global bifurcation that involves a homoclinic orbit. The subannual oscillations persist and stay fairly regular in the aperiodic solution regime, but they alternate now with a new and highly energetic, interannual oscillation. The physical causes of these two oscillations—as well as of a third, 19-day oscillation—are discussed. During episodes of the high-amplitude, interannual oscillation, the solution exhibits phases of either the subtropical or subpolar gyre being dominant. Even lower-frequency, interdecadal variability arises due to an irregular alternation between subannual and interannual modes of oscillation.

Simonnet E, Ghil M, Ide K, Temam R, Wang S. Low-frequency variability in shallow-water models of the wind-driven ocean circulation. Part II: Time-dependent solutions. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 2003;33 (4).Abstract

The time-dependent wind-driven ocean circulation is investigated for both a rectangular and a North Atlantic– shaped basin. Multiple steady states in a 2 ½ -layer shallow-water model and their dependence on various pa- rameters and other model properties were studied in Part I for the rectangular basin. As the wind stress on the rectangular basin is increased, each steady-state branch is destabilized by a Hopf bifurcation. The periodic solutions that arise off the subpolar branch have a robust subannual periodicity of 4–5 months. For the subtropical branch, the period varies between sub- and interannual, depending on the inverse Froude number F 2 defined with respect to the lower active layer’s thickness H 2 . As F 2 is lowered, the perturbed-symmetric branch is destabilized baroclinically, before the perturbed pitchfork bifurcation examined in detail in Part I occurs. Transition to aperiodic behavior arises at first by a homoclinic explosion off the isolated branch that exists only for sufficiently high wind stress. Subsequent global and local bifurcations all involve the subpolar branch, which alone exists in the limit of vanishing wind stress. Purely subpolar solutions vary on an interannual scale, whereas combined subpolar and subtropical solutions exhibit complex transitions affected by a second, subpolar homoclinic orbit. In the latter case, the timescale of the variability is interdecadal. The role of the global bifurcations in the interdecadal variability is investigated. Numerical simulations were carried out for the North Atlantic with earth topography- 5 minute (ETOPO-5) coastline geometry in the presence of realistic, as well as idealized, wind stress forcing. The simulations exhibit a realistic Gulf Stream at 20-km resolution and with realistic wind stress. The variability at 12-km resolution exhibits spectral peaks at 6 months, 16 months, and 6–7 years. The subannual mode is strongest in the subtropical gyre; the interannual modes are both strongest in the subpolar gyre.

Pierini S, Ghil M, Chekroun MD. Exploring the pullback attractors of a low-order quasigeostrophic ocean model: The deterministic case. Journal of Climate. 2016;29 (11) :4185-4202.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.

Dijkstra HA, Ghil M. Low-frequency variability of the large-scale ocean circulation: a dynamical systems approach. Reviews of Geophysics. 2005;43.Abstract

Oceanic variability on interannual, interdecadal, and longer timescales plays a key role in climate variability and climate change. Paleoclimatic records suggest major changes in the location and rate of deepwater formation in the Atlantic and Southern oceans on timescales from millennia to millions of years. Instrumental records of increasing duration and spatial coverage document substantial variability in the path and intensity of ocean surface currents on timescales of months to decades. We review recent theoretical and numerical results that help explain the physical processes governing the large-scale ocean circulation and its intrinsic variability. To do so, we apply systematically the methods of dynamical systems theory. The dynamical systems approach is proving successful for more and more detailed and realistic models, up to and including oceanic and coupled ocean-atmosphere general circulation models. In this approach one follows the road from simple, highly symmetric model solutions, through a “bifurcation tree,” toward the observed, complex behavior of the system under investigation. The observed variability can be shown to have its roots in simple transitions from a circulation with high symmetry in space and regularity in time to circulations with successively lower symmetry in space and less regularity in time. This road of successive bifurcations leads through multiple equilibria to oscillatory and eventually chaotic solutions. Key features of this approach are illustrated in detail for simplified models of two basic problems of the ocean circulation. First, a barotropic model is used to capture major features of the wind-driven ocean circulation and of the changes in its behavior as wind stress increases. Second, a zonally averaged model is used to show how the thermohaline ocean circulation changes as buoyancy fluxes at the surface increase. For the wind-driven circulation, multiple separation patterns of a “Gulf-Stream like” eastward jet are obtained. These multiple equilibria are followed by subannual and interannual oscillations of the jet and of the entire basin's circulation. The multiple equilibria of the thermohaline circulation include deepwater formation near the equator, near either pole or both, as well as intermediate possibilities that bear some degree of resemblance to the currently observed Atlantic overturning pattern. Some of these multiple equilibria are subject, in turn, to oscillatory instabilities with timescales of decades, centuries, and millennia. Interdecadal and centennial oscillations are the ones of greatest interest in the current debate on global warming and on the relative roles of natural and anthropogenic variability in it. They involve the physics of the truly three-dimensional coupling between the wind-driven and thermohaline circulation. To arrive at this three-dimensional picture, the bifurcation tree is sketched out for increasingly complex models for both the wind-driven and the thermohaline circulation.

Sushama L, Ghil M, Ide K. Spatio-temporal variability in a mid-latitude ocean basin subject to periodic wind forcing. Atmosphere-ocean. 2007;45 (4) :227–250.Abstract

The mid-latitude ocean's response to time-dependent zonal wind-stress forcing is studied using a reduced-gravity, 1.5-layer, shallow-water model in two rectangular ocean basins of different sizes. The small basin is 1000 km $\times$ 2000 km and the larger one is 3000 km $\times$ 2010 km; the aspect ratio of the larger basin is quite similar to that of the North Atlantic between 20$\deg$N and 60$\deg$N. The parameter dependence of the model solutions and their spatio-temporal variability subject to time-independent wind stress forcing serve as the reference against which the results for time-dependent forcing are compared. For the time-dependent forcing case, three zonal-wind profiles that mimic the seasonal cycle are considered in this study: (1) a fixed-profile wind-stress forcing with periodically varying intensity; (2) a wind-stress profile with fixed intensity, but north–south migration of the mid-latitude westerly wind maximum; and (3) a north–south migrating profile with periodically varying intensity. Results of the small-basin simulations show the intrinsic variability found for time-independent forcing to persist when the intensity of the wind forcing varies periodically. It thus appears that the physics behind the upper ocean's variability is mainly controlled by internal dynamics, although the solutions’ spatial patterns are now more complex, due to the interaction between the external and internal modes of variability. The north–south migration of wind forcing, however, does inhibit the inertial recirculation; its suppression increases with the amplitude of north–south migration in the wind-stress forcing. Model solutions in the larger rectangular basin and at smaller viscosity exhibit more realistic recirculation gyres, with a small meridional-to-zonal aspect ratio, and an elongated eastward jet; the low-frequency variability of these solutions is dominated by periodicities of 14 and 6–7 years. Simulations performed in this setting with a wind-stress profile that involves seasonal variations of realistic amplitude in both the intensity and the position of the atmospheric jet show the seven-year periodicity in the oceanic circulation to be robust. The intrinsic variability is reinforced by the periodic variations in the jet's intensity and weakened by periodic variations in the meridional position; the two effects cancel, roughly speaking, thus preserving the overall characteristics of the seven-year mode.

Kravtsov S, Berloff P, Dewar WK, Ghil M, McWilliams JC. Dynamical origin of low-frequency variability in a highly nonlinear midlatitude coupled model. Journal of Climate. 2006;19 (24).Abstract

A novel mechanism of decadal midlatitude coupled variability, which crucially depends on the nonlinear dynamics of both the atmosphere and the ocean, is presented. The coupled model studied involves quasigeostrophic atmospheric and oceanic components, which communicate with each other via a constant-depth oceanic mixed layer. A series of coupled and uncoupled experiments show that the decadal coupled mode is active across parameter ranges that allow the bimodality of the atmospheric zonal flow to coexist with oceanic turbulence. The latter is most intense in the regions of inertial recirculation (IR). Bimodality is associated with the existence of two distinct anomalously persistent zonal-flow modes, which are characterized by different latitudes of the atmospheric jet stream. The IR reorganizations caused by transitions of the atmosphere from its high- to low-latitude state and vice versa create sea surface temperature anomalies that tend to induce transition to the opposite atmospheric state. The decadal–interdecadal time scale of the resulting oscillation is set by the IR adjustment; the latter depends most sensitively on the oceanic bottom drag. The period T of the nonlinear oscillation is 7–25 yr for the range of parameters explored, with the most realistic parameter values yielding T \approx 20 yr. Aside from this nonlinear oscillation, an interannual Rossby wave mode is present in all coupled experiments. This coupled mode depends neither on atmospheric bimodality, nor on ocean eddy dynamics; it is analogous to the mode found previously in a channel configuration. Its time scale in the model with a closed ocean basin is set by cross-basin wave propagation and equals 3–5 yr for a basin width comparable with the North Atlantic.

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.

Ghil M, Feliks Y, Sushama LU. Baroclinic and barotropic aspects of the wind-driven ocean circulation. Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena. 2002;167 (1) :1–35.Abstract

The double-gyre circulation induced by a symmetric wind-stress pattern in a quasi-geostrophic model of the mid-latitude ocean is studied analytically and numerically. The model is discretized vertically by projection onto normal modes of the mean stratification. Within its horizontally rectangular domain, the numerical model captures the wind-driven circulation’s three dynamic regimes: (1) a basin-scale double-gyre circulation, cyclonic in the basin’s northern part and anticyclonic in the south, which is dominated by Sverdrup balance; (2) a swift western boundary current in either gyre, with dissipation most important near the coast and inertial balance further out; and (3) a strong recirculating dipole near the intersection of the western boundary with the symmetry line of zero wind-stress curl. The flow inside this stationary dipole is highly nonlinear, and equivalent-barotropic. An analytical solution to the potential vorticity equation with variable stratification describes the dipole, and fits well the full numerical model’s steady-state solutions. Changes in the numerical model’s solutions are investigated systematically as a function of changes in the strength of the wind stress $\tau$ and the Rossby radius of deformation LR. The main changes occur in the recirculation region, while the basin-scale gyres and the western boundary currents are affected but little. A unique symmetric dipole is observed for small $\tau$, and agrees in its properties with the analytical solution. As $\tau$ increases, multiple asymmetric equilibria arise due to pitchfork bifurcation and are stable for large enough LR. The numerically obtained asymmetric equilibria also agree in their main properties with the analytical ones, as well as with the corresponding solutions of a shallow-water model. Increasing $\tau$ further results in two successive Hopf bifurcations, that lead to limit cycles with periods near 10 and 1 years, respectively. Both oscillatory instabilities have a strong baroclinic component. Above a certain threshold in $\tau$ the solutions become chaotic. Flow pattern evolution in this chaotic regime resembles qualitatively the circulation found in the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio current systems after their separation from the continent.