Ocean & coupled ocean

Feliks Y, Ghil M, Robertson AW. The atmospheric circulation over the North Atlantic as induced by the SST field. Journal of Climate. 2011;24 :522–542.Abstract

Spectral analyses of the sea surface temperature (SST) in the Simple Ocean Data Analysis (SODA) reanalysis for the past half-century identify prominent and statistically significant interannual oscillations in two regions along the Gulf Stream front over the North Atlantic. A model of the atmospheric marine boundary layer coupled to a baroclinic quasi-geostrophic model of the free atmosphere is then forced with the SST history from the SODA reanalysis. Two extreme states are found in the atmospheric simulations: they consist of (1) an eastward extension of the westerly jet associated with the front, which occurs mainly during boreal winter; and (2) a quiescent state of very weak flow found predominantly in the summer. This vacillation of the oceanic-front–induced jet in the model is found to exhibit periodicities similar to those identified in the observed Gulf Stream SST front itself. In addition, a close correspondence is found between interannual spectral peaks in the observed North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index, and the SODA-induced oscillations in the atmospheric model. In particular, significant oscillatory modes with periods of 8.5, 4.2 and 2.8 years are found in both the observed and simulated indices, and shown to be highly synchronized and of similar energy in both time series. These oscillatory modes in the simulations are shown to be suppressed when either (a) the Gulf Stream front or (b) its interannual oscillations are omitted from the SST field. Moreover, these modes also disappear when (c) the SST front is spatially smoothed, thus confirming that they are indeed induced by the oceanic front.

Unal YS, Ghil M. Interannual and interdecadal oscillation patterns in sea level. Climate Dynamics. 1995;11 (5) :255–278.Abstract

Relative sea-level height (RSLH) data at 213 tide-gauge stations have been analyzed on a monthly and an annual basis to study interannual and interdecadal oscillations, respectively. The main tools of the study are singular spectrum analysis (SSA) and multi-channel SSA (M-SSA). Very-low-frequency variability of RSLH was filtered by SSA to estimate the linear trend at each station. Global sea-level rise, after postglacial rebound corrections, has been found to equal 1.62±0.38 mm/y, by averaging over 175 stations which have a trend consistent with the neighboring ones. We have identified two dominant time scales of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability, quasi-biennial and low-frequency, in the RSLH data at almost all stations. However, the amplitudes of both ENSO signals are higher in the equatorial Pacific and along the west coast of North America. RSLH data were interpolated along ocean coasts by latitudinal intervals of 5 or 10 degrees, depending on station density. Interannual variability was then examined by M-SSA in five regions: eastern Pacific (25°S–55°N at 10° resolution), western Pacific (35°S–45°N at 10°), equatorial Pacific (123°E–169°W, 6 stations), eastern Atlantic (30°S, 0°, and 30°N–70°N at 5°) and western Atlantic (50°S–50°N at 10°). Throughout the Pacific, we have found three dominant spatio-temporal oscillatory patterns, associated with time scales of ENSO variability; their periods are 2, 2.5–3 and 4–6 y. In the eastern Pacific, the biennial mode and the 6-y low-frequency mode propagate poleward. There is a southward propagation of low-frequency modes in the western Pacific RSLH, between 35°N and 5°S, but no clear propagation in the latitudes further south. However, equatorward propagation of the biennial signal is very clear in the Southern Hemisphere. In the equatorial Pacific, both the quasi-quadrennial and quasi-biennial modes at 10°N propagate westward. Strong and weak El Niño years are evident in the sea-level time series reconstructed from the quasi-biennial and low-frequency modes. Interannual variability with periods of 3 and 4–8 y is detected in the Atlantic RSLH data. In the eastern Atlantic region, we have found slow propagation of both modes northward and southward, away from 40–45°N. Interdecadal oscillations were studied using 81 stations with sufficiently long and continuous records. Most of these have variability at 9–13 and some at 18 y. Two significant eigenmode pairs, corresponding to periods of 11.6 and 12.8 y, are found in the eastern and western Atlantic ocean at latitudes 40°N–70°N and 10°N–50°N, respectively.

Kravtsov S, Kondrashov D, Kamenkovich I, Ghil M. An empirical stochastic model of sea-surface temperatures and surface winds over the Southern Ocean. Ocean Science [Internet]. 2011;7 (6) :755–770. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This study employs NASA's recent satellite measurements of sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) and sea-level winds (SLWs) with missing data filled-in by Singular Spectrum Analysis (SSA), to construct empirical models that capture both intrinsic and SST-dependent aspects of SLW variability. The model construction methodology uses a number of algorithmic innovations that are essential in providing stable estimates of the model's propagator. The best model tested herein is able to faithfully represent the time scales and spatial patterns of anomalies associated with a number of distinct processes. These processes range from the daily synoptic variability to interannual signals presumably associated with oceanic or coupled dynamics. Comparing the simulations of an SLW model forced by the observed SST anomalies with the simulations of an SLW-only model provides preliminary evidence for the ocean driving the atmosphere in the Southern Ocean region.

Simonnet E, Ghil M, Dijkstra H. Homoclinic bifurcations in the quasi-geostrophic double-gyre circulation. Journal of Marine Research. 2005;63 (5) :931–956.Abstract

The wind-driven double-gyre circulation in a rectangular basin goes through several dynamical regimes as the amount of lateral friction is decreased. This paper studies the transition to irregular flow in the double-gyre circulation by applying dynamical systems methodology to a quasi-geostrophic, equivalent-barotropic model with a 10-km resolution. The origin of the irregularities, in space and time, is the occurrence of homoclinic bifurcations that involve phase-space behavior far from stationary solutions. The connection between these homoclinic bifurcations and earlier transitions, which occur at larger lateral friction, is explained. The earlier transitions, such as pitchfork and asymmetric Hopf bifurcation, only involve the nonlinear saturation of linear instabilities, while the homoclinic bifurcations are associated with genuinely nonlinear behavior. The sequence of bifurcations—pitchfork, Hopf, and homoclinic—is independent of the lateral friction and may be described as the unfolding of a singularity that occurs in the frictionless, Hamiltonian limit of the governing equations. Two distinct chaotic regimes are identified: Lorenz chaos at relatively large lateral friction versus Shilnikov chaos at relatively small lateral friction. Both types of homoclinic bifurcations induce chaotic behavior of the recirculation gyres that is dominated by relaxation oscillations with a well-defined period. The relevance of these results to the mid-latitude oceans' observed low-frequency variations is discussed. A previously documented 7-year peak in observed North-Atlantic variability is shown to exist across a hierarchy of models that share the gyre modes and homoclinic bifurcations discussed herein.

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.

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.