Review & Encyclopedia

Ghil M, Simonnet E. Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, Nonautonomous Dynamical Systems, and the Climate Sciences. In: Cannarsa P, Mansutti D, Provenzale A Mathematical Approach to Climate Change and its Impacts: MAC2I. Springer International Publishing ; 2020. pp. 3–81.Abstract
This contribution introduces the dynamics of shallow and rotating flows that characterizes large-scale motions of the atmosphere and oceans. It then focuses on an important aspect of climate dynamics on interannual and interdecadal scales, namely the wind-driven ocean circulation. Studying the variability of this circulation and slow changes therein is treated as an application of the theory of nonautonomous dynamical systems. The contribution concludes by discussing the relevance of these mathematical concepts and methods for the highly topical issues of climate change and climate sensitivity.
Chavez M, Ghil M, Urrutia-Fucugauchi J ed. Extreme Events: Observations, Modeling and Economics. Washington, DC: American Geophysical Union & Wiley; 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The monograph covers the fundamentals and the consequences of extreme geophysical phenomena like asteroid impacts, climatic change, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, flooding, and space weather. This monograph also addresses their associated, local and worldwide socio-economic impacts. The understanding and modeling of these phenomena is critical to the development of timely worldwide strategies for the prediction of natural and anthropogenic extreme events, in order to mitigate their adverse consequences. This monograph is unique in as much as it is dedicated to recent theoretical, numerical and empirical developments that aim to improve: (i) the understanding, modeling and prediction of extreme events in the geosciences, and, (ii) the quantitative evaluation of their economic consequences. The emphasis is on coupled, integrative assessment of the physical phenomena and their socio-economic impacts. With its overarching theme, Extreme Events: Observations, Modeling and Economics will be relevant to and become an important tool for researchers and practitioners in the fields of hazard and risk analysis in general, as well as to those with a special interest in climate change, atmospheric and oceanic sciences, seismo-tectonics, hydrology, and space weather.

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.

Ghil M. Natural climate variability. In: MacCracken M, Perry J Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change. Vol. 1. Wiley & Sons, Chichester/New York ; 2002. pp. 544–549.
Hillerbrand R, Ghil M. Anthropogenic climate change: Scientific uncertainties and moral dilemmas. Physica D. 2008;237 (14-17) :2132–2138.Abstract

This paper considers the role of scientific expertise and moral reasoning in the decision making process involved in climate-change issues. It points to an unresolved moral dilemma that lies at the heart of this decision making, namely how to balance duties towards future generations against duties towards our contemporaries. At present, the prevailing moral and political discourses shy away from addressing this dilemma and evade responsibility by falsely drawing normative conclusions from the predictions of climate models alone. We argue that such moral dilemmas are best addressed in the framework of Expected Utility Theory. A crucial issue is to adequately incorporate into this framework the uncertainties associated with the predicted consequences of climate change on the well-being of future generations. The uncertainties that need to be considered include those usually associated with climate modeling and prediction, but also moral and general epistemic ones. This paper suggests a way to correctly incorporate all the relevant uncertainties into the decision making process.