Ocean & coupled ocean

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.

Brachet S, Codron F, Feliks Y, Ghil M, Le Treut H, Simonnet E. Atmospheric circulations induced by a midlatitude SST front: A GCM study. Journal of Climate. 2012;25 (6) :1847–1853.Abstract

The atmospheric effects of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies over and near western boundary currents are a matter of renewed interest. The general circulation model (GCM) of the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD-Z) has a zooming capability that allows a regionally increased resolution. This GCM is used to analyze the impact of a sharp SST front in the North Atlantic Ocean: two simulations are compared, one with climatological SSTs and the other with an enhanced Gulf Stream front. The results corroborate the theory developed previously by the present team to explain the impact of oceanic fronts. In this theory, the vertical velocity at the top of the atmospheric boundary layer has two components: mechanical and thermal. It is the latter that is dominant in the tropics, while in midlatitudes both play a role in determining the wind convergence above the boundary layer. The strengthened SST front does generate the previously predicted stronger ascent above the warmer water south of the front and stronger descent above the colder waters to the north. In the GCM simulations, the ascent over the warm anomalies is deeper and more intense than the descent.

Simonnet E, Ghil M, Ide K, Temam R, Wang S. Low-Frequency Variability in Shallow-Water Models of the Wind-Driven Ocean Circulation. Part I: Steady-State Solution. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 2003;33 (4).Abstract

Successive bifurcations—from steady states through periodic to aperiodic solutions—are studied in a shallow- water, reduced-gravity, 2 ½ -layer model of the midlatitude ocean circulation subject to time-independent wind stress. The bifurcation sequence is studied in detail for a rectangular basin with an idealized spatial pattern of wind stress. The aperiodic behavior is studied also in a North Atlantic–shaped basin with realistic continental contours. The bifurcation sequence in the rectangular basin is studied in Part I, the present article. It follows essentially the one reported for single-layer quasigeostrophic and 1 ½ -layer shallow-water models. As the intensity of the north– south-symmetric, zonal wind stress is increased, the nearly symmetric double-gyre circulation is destabilized through a perturbed pitchfork bifurcation. The low-stress steady solution, with its nearly equal subtropical and subpolar gyres, is replaced by an approximately mirror-symmetric pair of stable equilibria. The two solution branches so obtained are named after the inertial recirculation cell that is stronger, subtropical or subpolar, respectively. This perturbed pitchfork bifurcation and the associated Hopf bifurcations are robust to changes in the interface friction between the two active layers and the thickness H 2 of the lower active layer. They persist in the presence of asymmetries in the wind stress and of changes in the model’s spatial resolution and finite- difference scheme. Time-dependent model behavior in the rectangular basin, as well as in the more realistic, North Atlantic–shaped one, is studied in Part II.

Jiang N, Neelin JD, Ghil M. Quasi-quadrennial and quasi-biennial variability in the equatorial Pacific. Climate Dynamics. 1995;12 :101–112.Abstract

Evaluation of competing El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) theories requires one to identify separate spectral peaks in equatorial wind and sea-surface temperature (SST) time series. To sharpen this identification, we examine the seasonal-to-interannual variability of these fields by the data-adaptive method of multi-channel singular spectrum analysis (M-SSA). M-SSA is applied to the equatorial band (4°N-4°S), using 1950 1990 data from the Comprehensive Ocean and Atmosphere Data Set. Two major interannual oscillations are found in the equatorial SST and surface zonal wind fields, U. The main peak is centered at about 52-months; we refer to it as the quasi-quadrennial (QQ) mode. Quasi-biennial (QB) variability is split between two modes, with periods near 28 months and 24 months. A faster, 15-month oscillation has smaller amplitude. The QQ mode dominates the variance and has the most distinct spectral peak. In time-longitude reconstructions of this mode, the SST has the form of a standing oscillation in the eastern equatorial Pacific, while the U-field is dominated by a standing oscillation pattern in the western Pacific and exhibits also slight eastward propagation in the central and western Pacific. The locations of maximum anomalies in both QB modes are similar to those of the QQ mode. Slight westward migration in SST, across the eastern and central, and eastward propagation of U, across the western and central Pacific, are found. The significant wind anomaly covers a smaller region than for the QQ. The QQ and QB modes together represent the ENSO variability well and interfere constructively during major events. The sharper definition of the QQ spectral peak and its dominance are consistent with the “devil's staircase” interaction mechanism between the annual cycle and ENSO.

Chekroun MD, Kondrashov D, Ghil M. Predicting stochastic systems by noise sampling, and application to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2011;108 (29) :11766–11771.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.

Kondrashov D, Sun C, Ghil M. Data Assimilation for a Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Model. Part II: Parameter Estimation. Monthly Weather Review. 2008;136 :5062–5076.Abstract

The parameter estimation problem for the coupled ocean–atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific Ocean is investigated using an advanced sequential estimator [i.e., the extended Kalman filter (EKF)]. The intermediate coupled model (ICM) used in this paper consists of a prognostic upper-ocean model and a diagnostic atmospheric model. Model errors arise from the uncertainty in atmospheric wind stress. First, the state and parameters are estimated in an identical-twin framework, based on incomplete and inaccurate observations of the model state. Two parameters are estimated by including them into an augmented state vector. Model-generated oceanic datasets are assimilated to produce a time-continuous, dynamically consistent description of the model’s El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). State estimation without correcting erroneous parameter values still permits recovering the true state to a certain extent, depending on the quality and accuracy of the observations and the size of the discrepancy in the parameters. Estimating both state and parameter values simultaneously, though, produces much better results. Next, real sea surface temperatures observations from the tropical Pacific are assimilated for a 30-yr period (1975–2004). Estimating both the state and parameters by the EKF method helps to track the observations better, even when the ICM is not capable of simulating all the details of the observed state. Furthermore, unobserved ocean variables, such as zonal currents, are improved when model parameters are estimated. A key advantage of using this augmented-state approach is that the incremental cost of applying the EKF to joint state and parameter estimation is small relative to the cost of state estimation alone. A similar approach generalizes various reduced-state approximations of the EKF and could improve simulations and forecasts using large, realistic models.