Statistical methods

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.

Yiou P, Sornette D, Ghil M. Data-adaptive wavelets and multi-scale singular-spectrum analysis. Physica D. 2000;142 (3-4) :254–290.Abstract

Using multi-scale ideas from wavelet analysis, we extend singular-spectrum analysis (SSA) to the study of nonstationary time series, including the case where intermittency gives rise to the divergence of their variance. The wavelet transform resembles a local Fourier transform within a finite moving window whose width W, proportional to the major period of interest, is varied to explore a broad range of such periods. SSA, on the other hand, relies on the construction of the lag-correlation matrix C on M lagged copies of the time series over a fixed window width W to detect the regular part of the variability in that window in terms of the minimal number of oscillatory components; here W=M[Delta]t with [Delta]t as the time step. The proposed multi-scale SSA is a local SSA analysis within a moving window of width M<=W<=N, where N is the length of the time series. Multi-scale SSA varies W, while keeping a fixed W/M ratio, and uses the eigenvectors of the corresponding lag-correlation matrix C(M) as data-adaptive wavelets; successive eigenvectors of C(M) correspond approximately to successive derivatives of the first mother wavelet in standard wavelet analysis. Multi-scale SSA thus solves objectively the delicate problem of optimizing the analyzing wavelet in the time-frequency domain by a suitable localization of the signal's correlation matrix. We present several examples of application to synthetic signals with fractal or power-law behavior which mimic selected features of certain climatic or geophysical time series. The method is applied next to the monthly values of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) for 1933-1996; the SOI time series is widely believed to capture major features of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Tropical Pacific. Our methodology highlights an abrupt periodicity shift in the SOI near 1960. This abrupt shift between 5 and 3 years supports the Devil's staircase scenario for the ENSO phenomenon (preliminary results of this study were presented at the XXII General Assembly of the European Geophysical Society, Vienna, May 1997, and at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, San Francisco, December 1997).

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.

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.

Edeline E, Groth A, Cazelles B, Claessen D, Winfield IJ, Ohlberger J, Asbjørn Vøllestad L, Stenseth NC, Ghil M. Pathogens trigger top-down climate forcing on ecosystem dynamics. Oecologia. 2016 :1–14.Abstract

Evaluating the effects of climate variation on ecosystems is of paramount importance for our ability to forecast and mitigate the consequences of global change. However, the ways in which complex food webs respond to climate variations remain poorly understood. Here, we use long-term time series to investigate the effects of temperature variation on the intraguild-predation (IGP) system of Windermere (UK), a lake where pike (Esox lucius, top predator) feed on small-sized perch (Perca fluviatilis) but compete with large-sized perch for the same food sources. Spectral analyses of time series reveal that pike recruitment dynamics are temperature controlled. In 1976, expansion of a size-truncating perch pathogen into the lake severely impacted large perch and favoured pike as the IGP-dominant species. This pathogen-induced regime shift to a pike-dominated IGP apparently triggered a temperature-controlled trophic cascade passing through pike down to dissolved nutrients. In simple food chains, warming is predicted to strengthen top–down control by accelerating metabolic rates in ectothermic consumers, while pathogens of top consumers are predicted to dampen this top–down control. In contrast, the local IGP structure in Windermere made warming and pathogens synergistic in their top–down effects on ecosystem functioning. More generally, our results point to top predators as major mediators of community response to global change, and show that size-selective agents (e.g. pathogens, fishers or hunters) may change the topological architecture of food webs and alter whole ecosystem sensitivity to climate variation.

Kondrashov D, Kravtsov S, Robertson AW, Ghil M. A hierarchy of data-based ENSO models. Journal of climate. 2005;18 (21) :4425–4444.Abstract

Global sea surface temperature (SST) evolution is analyzed by constructing predictive models that best describe the dataset’s statistics. These inverse models assume that the system’s variability is driven by spatially coherent, additive noise that is white in time and are constructed in the phase space of the dataset’s leading empirical orthogonal functions. Multiple linear regression has been widely used to obtain inverse stochastic models; it is generalized here in two ways. First, the dynamics is allowed to be nonlinear by using polynomial regression. Second, a multilevel extension of classic regression allows the additive noise to be correlated in time; to do so, the residual stochastic forcing at a given level is modeled as a function of variables at this level and the preceding ones. The number of variables, as well as the order of nonlinearity, is determined by optimizing model performance. The two-level linear and quadratic models have a better El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) hindcast skill than their one-level counterparts. Estimates of skewness and kurtosis of the models’ simulated Niño-3 index reveal that the quadratic model reproduces better the observed asymmetry between the positive El Niño and negative La Niña events. The benefits of the quadratic model are less clear in terms of its overall, cross-validated hindcast skill; this model outperforms, however, the linear one in predicting the magnitude of extreme SST anomalies. Seasonal ENSO dependence is captured by incorporating additive, as well as multiplicative forcing with a 12-month period into the first level of each model. The quasi-quadrennial ENSO oscillatory mode is robustly simulated by all models. The “spring barrier” of ENSO forecast skill is explained by Floquet and singular vector analysis, which show that the leading ENSO mode becomes strongly damped in summer, while nonnormal optimum growth has a strong peak in December.

Groth A, Ghil M, Hallegatte S, Dumas P. The Role of Oscillatory Modes in U.S. Business Cycles. OECD Journal: Journal of Business Cycle Measurement and Analysis. 2015;(2015/1) :63–81.Abstract

We apply multivariate singular spectrum analysis to the study of U.S. business cycle dynamics. This method provides a robust way to identify and reconstruct oscillations, whether intermittent or modulated. We show such oscillations to be associated with comovements across the entire economy. The problem of spurious cycles generated by the use of detrending filters is addressed and we present a Monte Carlo test to extract significant oscillations. The behavior of the U.S. economy is shown to change significantly from one phase of the business cycle to another: the recession phase is dominated by a five-year mode, while the expansion phase exhibits more complex dynamics, with higher-frequency modes coming into play. We show that the variations so identified cannot be generated by random shocks alone, as assumed in ‘real’ business-cycle models, and that endogenous, deterministically generated variability has to be involved.

Sella L, Vivaldo G, Groth A, Ghil M. Economic Cycles and their Synchronization: A spectral survey. Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) [Internet]. 2013;105 (105) :1. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The present work applies several advanced spectral methods to the analysis of macroeconomic fluctuations in three countries of the European Union: Italy, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. We focus here in particular on singular-spectrum analysis (SSA), which provides valuable spatial and frequency information of multivariate data and that goes far beyond a pure analysis in the time domain. The spectral methods discussed here are well established in the geosciences and life sciences, but not yet widespread in quantitative economics. In particular, they enable one to identify and describe nonlinear trends and dominant cycles –- including seasonal and interannual components –- that characterize the deterministic behavior of each time series. These tools have already proven their robustness in the application on short and noisy data, and we demonstrate their usefulness in the analysis of the macroeconomic indicators of these three countries. We explore several fundamental indicators of the countries' real aggregate economy in a univariate, as well as a multivariate setting. Starting with individual single-channel analysis, we are able to identify similar spectral components among the analyzed indicators. Next, we consider combinations of indicators and countries, in order to take different effects of comovements into account. Since business cycles are cross-national phenomena, which show common characteristics across countries, our aim is to uncover hidden global behavior across the European economies. Results are compared with previous findings on the U.S. indicators \citepGroth.ea.FEEM.2012. Finally, the analysis is extended to include several indicators from the U.S. economy, in order to examine its influence on the European market.

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.

Kravtsov S, Kondrashov D, Ghil M. Multilevel regression modeling of nonlinear processes: Derivation and applications to climatic variability. Journal of Climate. 2005;18 (21) :4404–4424.Abstract

Predictive models are constructed to best describe an observed field’s statistics within a given class of nonlinear dynamics driven by a spatially coherent noise that is white in time. For linear dynamics, such inverse stochastic models are obtained by multiple linear regression (MLR). Nonlinear dynamics, when more appropriate, is accommodated by applying multiple polynomial regression (MPR) instead; the resulting model uses polynomial predictors, but the dependence on the regression parameters is linear in both MPR and MLR. The basic concepts are illustrated using the Lorenz convection model, the classical double-well problem, and a three-well problem in two space dimensions. Given a data sample that is long enough, MPR successfully reconstructs the model coefficients in the former two cases, while the resulting inverse model captures the three-regime structure of the system’s probability density function (PDF) in the latter case. A novel multilevel generalization of the classic regression procedure is introduced next. In this generalization, the residual stochastic forcing at a given level is subsequently modeled as a function of variables at this level and all the preceding ones. The number of levels is determined so that the lag-0 covariance of the residual forcing converges to a constant matrix, while its lag-1 covariance vanishes. This method has been applied to the output of a three-layer, quasigeostrophic model and to the analysis of Northern Hemisphere wintertime geopotential height anomalies. In both cases, the inverse model simulations reproduce well the multiregime structure of the PDF constructed in the subspace spanned by the dataset’s leading empirical orthogonal functions, as well as the detailed spectrum of the dataset’s temporal evolution. These encouraging results are interpreted in terms of the modeled low-frequency flow’s feedback on the statistics of the subgrid-scale processes.

Chen C, Cane MA, Henderson N, Lee DE, Chapman D, Kondrashov D, Chekroun MD. Diversity, nonlinearity, seasonality and memory effect in ENSO simulation and prediction using empirical model reduction. Journal of Climate. 2016;29 (5) :1809-1830.Abstract

A suite of empirical model experiments under the empirical model reduction framework are conducted to advance the understanding of ENSO diversity, nonlinearity, seasonality, and the memory effect in the simulation and prediction of tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies. The model training and evaluation are carried out using 4000-yr preindustrial control simulation data from the coupled model GFDL CM2.1. The results show that multivariate models with tropical Pacific subsurface information and multilevel models with SST history information both improve the prediction skill dramatically. These two types of models represent the ENSO memory effect based on either the recharge oscillator or the time-delayed oscillator viewpoint. Multilevel SST models are a bit more efficient, requiring fewer model coefficients. Nonlinearity is found necessary to reproduce the ENSO diversity feature for extreme events. The nonlinear models reconstruct the skewed probability density function of SST anomalies and improve the prediction of the skewed amplitude, though the role of nonlinearity may be slightly overestimated given the strong nonlinear ENSO in GFDL CM2.1. The models with periodic terms reproduce the SST seasonal phase locking but do not improve the prediction appreciably. The models with multiple ingredients capture several ENSO characteristics simultaneously and exhibit overall better prediction skill for more diverse target patterns. In particular, they alleviate the spring/autumn prediction barrier and reduce the tendency for predicted values to lag the target month value.