Atmosphere & climate


Spectral analyses of the North Atlantic temperature field in the Simple Ocean Data Analysis (SODA) reanalysis identify prominent and statistically significant interannual oscillations along the Gulf Stream front and in large regions of the North Atlantic. A 7--8-yr oscillatory mode is characterized by a basin-wide southwest-to-northeast--oriented propagation pattern in the sea-surface temperature (SST) field. This pattern is found to be linked to a seesaw in the meridional-dipole structure of the zonal wind-stress forcing (TAUX). In the subpolar gyre, the SST and TAUX fields of this mode are shown to be in phase opposition, which suggests a cooling effect of the wind stress on the upper ocean layer. Over all, this mode's temperature field is characterized by a strong equivalent-barotropic component, as shown by covariations in SST and sea-surface height (SSH), and by phase-coherent behavior of temperature layers at depth with the SST field. On the other hand, this mode shares many features of the gyre mode and raises the possibilty for the existence of an intrinsic oceanic mode of similar 7--8-yr period in the Gulf Stream region.

PDF North Atlantic SST 7.7-yr mode
Hannart, A., A. Carrassi, M. Bocquet, Michael Ghil, P. Naveau, M. Pulido, J. Ruiz, and P. Tandeo. “DADA: data assimilation for the detection and attribution of weather and climate-related events.” Climatic Change 136, no. 2 (2016): 155–174. Publisher's Version Abstract

We describe a new approach that allows for systematic causal attribution of weather and climate-related events, in near-real time. The method is designed so as to facilitate its implementation at meteorological centers by relying on data and methods that are routinely available when numerically forecasting the weather. We thus show that causal attribution can be obtained as a by-product of data assimilation procedures run on a daily basis to update numerical weather prediction (NWP) models with new atmospheric observations; hence, the proposed methodology can take advantage of the powerful computational and observational capacity of weather forecasting centers. We explain the theoretical rationale of this approach and sketch the most prominent features of a ``data assimilation–based detection and attribution'' (DADA) procedure. The proposal is illustrated in the context of the classical three-variable Lorenz model with additional forcing. The paper concludes by raising several theoretical and practical questions that need to be addressed to make the proposal operational within NWP centers.

Ghil, Michael. “A Mathematical Theory of Climate Sensitivity: A Tale of Deterministic & Stochastic Dynamical Systems.” 11th AIMS Conf. on Dynamical Systems, Differential Equations & Applications, Honoring Peter Lax’s 90th Birthday, Orlando, FL, July 2016, 2016. Abstract

Feliks, Yizhak, Andrew W. Robertson, and Michael Ghil. “Interannual Variability in North Atlantic Weather: Data Analysis and a Quasigeostrophic Model.” Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 73, no. 8 (2016): 3227-3248. Abstract

This paper addresses the effect of interannual variability in jet stream orientation on weather systems over the North Atlantic basin (NAB). The observational analysis relies on 65 yr of NCEP–NCAR reanalysis (1948–2012). The total daily kinetic energy of the geostrophic wind (GTKE) is taken as a measure of storm activity over the North Atlantic. The NAB is partitioned into four rectangular regions, and the winter average of GTKE is calculated for each quadrant. The spatial GTKE average over all four quadrants shows striking year-to-year variability and is strongly correlated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).The GTKE strength in the northeast quadrant is closely related to the diffluence angle of the jet stream in the northwest quadrant. To gain insight into the relationship between the diffluence angle and its downstream impact, a quasigeostrophic baroclinic model is used. The results show that an initially zonal jet persists at its initial latitude over 30 days or longer, while a tilted jet propagates meridionally according to the Rossby wave group velocity, unless kept stationary by external forcing.A Gulf Stream–like narrow sea surface temperature (SST) front provides the requisite forcing for an analytical steady-state solution to this problem. This SST front influences the atmospheric jet in the northwest quadrant: it both strengthens the jet and tilts it northward at higher levels, while its effect is opposite at lower levels. Reanalysis data confirm these effects, which are consistent with thermal wind balance. The results suggest that the interannual variability found in the GTKE may be caused by intrinsic variability of the thermal Gulf Stream front.

Chekroun, Mickaël D., Michael Ghil, Honghu Liu, and Shouhong Wang. “Low-dimensional Galerkin approximations of nonlinear delay differential equations.” Discrete and Continuous Dynamical Systems - Series S 36, no. 8 (2016): 4133-4177. Abstract

This article revisits the approximation problem of systems of nonlinear delay differential equations (DDEs) by a set of ordinary differential equations (ODEs). We work in Hilbert spaces endowed with a natural inner product including a point mass, and introduce polynomials orthogonal with respect to such an inner product that live in the domain of the linear operator associated with the underlying DDE. These polynomials are then used to design a general Galerkin scheme for which we derive rigorous convergence results and show that it can be numerically implemented via simple analytic formulas. The scheme so obtained is applied to three nonlinear DDEs, two autonomous and one forced: (i) a simple DDE with distributed delays whose solutions recall Brownian motion; (ii) a DDE with a discrete delay that exhibits bimodal and chaotic dynamics; and (iii) a periodically forced DDE with two discrete delays arising in climate dynamics. In all three cases, the Galerkin scheme introduced in this article provides a good approximation by low-dimensional ODE systems of the DDE's strange attractor, as well as of the statistical features that characterize its nonlinear dynamics.

Chang, C. P., Michael Ghil, M. Latif, and J. M. Wallace, ed. Climate Change: Multidecadal and Beyond. World Scientific Publ. Co./Imperial College Press, 2015.
Groth, Andreas, and Michael Ghil. “Monte Carlo Singular Spectrum Analysis (SSA) revisited: Detecting oscillator clusters in multivariate datasets.” Journal of Climate 28, no. 19 (2015): 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.

Groth, Andreas. “Interannual variability in the North Atlantic SST and wind forcing.” Seminar at International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia, 2014. Abstract

Groth, Andreas. “Oscillatory behavior and oscillatory modes.” SSA workshop Bournemouth, September 2014, 2014. Abstract

Ghil, Michael. “Lecture 2: Toward a Mathematical Theory of Climate Sensitivity.” Workshop on Mathematics of Climate Change, Related Hazards and Risks, CIMAT, Guanajuato, Mexico, 2013. Abstract

Lecture 2: Toward a Mathematical Theory of Climate Sensitivity
Ghil, Michael. “Lecture 3 : The Coupled Dynamics of Climate and Economics.” Workshop on Mathematics of Climate Change, Related Hazards and Risks, CIMAT, Guanajuato, Mexico, 2013. Abstract

Lecture 3 : The Coupled Dynamics of Climate and Economics
de Viron, O., J. O. Dickey, and Michael Ghil. “Global modes of climate variability.” Geophysical Research Letters 40, no. 9 (2013): 1832-1837. Abstract

The atmosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere form a fully coupled climate system. This system exhibits a number of large-scale phenomena, such as the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Asian Monsoon, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). While these modes of variability are not exactly periodic, they are oscillatory in character, and their state is monitored using so-called climate indices. Each of these scalar indices is a combination of several climate variables. Here, we use a comprehensive set of 25 climate indices for time intervals that range between 1948 and 2011, and estimate an optimal set of lags between these indices to maximize their correlation. We show that most of the index pairs drawn from this set present a significant correlation on interannual time scales. It is also shown that, on average, about two-thirds of the total variability in each index can be described by using only the four leading principal components of the entire set of lagged indices. Our index set's leading orthogonal modes exhibit several interannual frequencies and capture separately variability associated with the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. These modes are associated, in turn, with large-scale variations of sea surface temperatures.

Kondrashov, Dmitri, Mickaël D. Chekroun, Andrew W. Robertson, and Michael Ghil. “Low-order stochastic model and ``past-noise forecasting" of the Madden-Julian oscillation.” Geophysical Research Letters 40 (2013): 5305–5310.
Feliks, Yizhak, Andreas Groth, Andrew W. Robertson, and Michael Ghil. “Oscillatory Climate Modes in the Indian Monsoon, North Atlantic and Tropical Pacific.” Journal of Climate 26 (2013): 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.


Ghil, Michael. “The Complex Physics of Climate Change: Nonlinearity and Stochasticity.” Workshop on Critical Transitions in Complex Systems, Imperial College London, United Kingdom, 2012. Conference website Abstract

Deremble, Bruno, Guillaume Lapeyre, and Michael Ghil. “Atmospheric dynamics triggered by an oceanic SST front in a moist quasigeostrophic model.” Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 69, no. 5 (2012): 1617–1632.
Ghil, Michael. “Toward a Mathematical Theory of Climate Sensitivity.” International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics (ICIAM), Vancouver, 2011. Abstract

SIAM News article

Variability of the Indian summer monsoon is decomposed into an interannually modulated annual cycle (MAC) and a northward-propagating, intraseasonal (30-60-day) oscillation (ISO). To achieve this decomposition, we apply multi-channel singular spectrum analysis (M-SSA) simultaneously to unfiltered daily fields of observed outgoing long-wave radiation (OLR) and to reanalyzed 925-hPa winds over the Indian region, from 1975 to 2008. The MAC is essentially given by the year-to-year changes in the annual and semi-annual components; it displays a slow northward migration of OLR anomalies coupled with an alternation between the northeast winter and southwest summer monsoons. The impact of these oscillatory modes on rainfall is then analyzed using a 1-degree gridded daily data set, focusing on Monsoonal India (north of 17°N and west of 90°E) during the months of June to September. Daily rainfall variability is partitioned into three states using a Hidden Markov Model. Two of these states are shown to agree well with previous classifications of "active" and "break" phases of the monsoon, while the third state exhibits a dipolar east-west pattern with abundant rainfall east of about 77°E and low rainfall to the west. Occurrence of the three rainfall states is found to be an asymmetric function of both the MAC and ISO components. On average, monsoon active phases are favored by large positive anomalies of MAC, and breaks by negative ones. ISO impact is decisive when the MAC is near neutral values during the onset and withdrawal phases of the monsoon. Active monsoon spells are found to require a synergy between the MAC and ISO, while the east-west rainfall dipole is less sensitive to interactions between the two. The driest years, defined from spatially averaged June-September rainfall anomalies, are found to be mostly a result of breaks occurring during the onset and withdrawal stages of the monsoon, e.g., mid-June to mid-July, and during September. These breaks are in turn associated with anomalously late MAC onset or early MAC withdrawal, often together with a large-amplitude, negative ISO event. The occurrence of breaks during the core of the monsoon—from late July to late August—is restricted to a few years when MAC was exceptionally weak, such as 1987 or 2002. Wet years are shown to be mostly associated with more frequent active spells and a stronger MAC than usual, especially at the end of the monsoon season. Taken together, our results suggest that monthly and seasonal precipitation predictability is higher in the early and late stages of the summer monsoon season.