Finite Difference of Adjoint or Adjoint of Finite Difference?

Ziv Sirkes Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Southern Mississippi, Stennis Space Center, Mississipi

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Eli Tziperman Environmental Sciences, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

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Abstract

Adjoint models are used for atmospheric and oceanic sensitivity studies in order to efficiently evaluate the sensitivity of a cost function (e.g., the temperature or pressure at some target time tf, averaged over some region of interest) with respect to the three-dimensional model initial conditions. The time-dependent sensitivity, that is the sensitivity to initial conditions as function of the initial time ti, may be obtained directly and most efficiently from the adjoint model solution. There are two approaches to formulating an adjoint of a given model. In the first (“finite difference of adjoint”), one derives the continuous adjoint equations from the linearized continuous forward model equations and then formulates the finite-difference implementation of the continuous adjoint equations. In the second (“adjoint of finite difference”), one derives the finite-difference adjoint equations directly from the finite difference of the forward model. It is shown here that the time-dependent sensitivity obtained by using the second approach may result in a very strong nonphysical behavior such as a large-amplitude two-time-step leapfrog computational mode, which may prevent the solution from being used for time-dependent sensitivity studies. This is an especially relevant problem now, as this second approach is the one used by automatic adjoint compilers that are becoming widely used. The two approaches are analyzed in detail using both a simple model and the adjoint of a primitive equations ocean general circulation model. It is emphasized that both approaches are valid as long as they are used for obtaining the gradient or sensitivity at a single time, as needed in data assimilation, for example. Criteria are presented for the choice of the appropriate adjoint formulation for a given problem.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Eli Tziperman, Environmental Sciences and Energy Research, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.

Email: eli@beach.weizmann.ac.il

Abstract

Adjoint models are used for atmospheric and oceanic sensitivity studies in order to efficiently evaluate the sensitivity of a cost function (e.g., the temperature or pressure at some target time tf, averaged over some region of interest) with respect to the three-dimensional model initial conditions. The time-dependent sensitivity, that is the sensitivity to initial conditions as function of the initial time ti, may be obtained directly and most efficiently from the adjoint model solution. There are two approaches to formulating an adjoint of a given model. In the first (“finite difference of adjoint”), one derives the continuous adjoint equations from the linearized continuous forward model equations and then formulates the finite-difference implementation of the continuous adjoint equations. In the second (“adjoint of finite difference”), one derives the finite-difference adjoint equations directly from the finite difference of the forward model. It is shown here that the time-dependent sensitivity obtained by using the second approach may result in a very strong nonphysical behavior such as a large-amplitude two-time-step leapfrog computational mode, which may prevent the solution from being used for time-dependent sensitivity studies. This is an especially relevant problem now, as this second approach is the one used by automatic adjoint compilers that are becoming widely used. The two approaches are analyzed in detail using both a simple model and the adjoint of a primitive equations ocean general circulation model. It is emphasized that both approaches are valid as long as they are used for obtaining the gradient or sensitivity at a single time, as needed in data assimilation, for example. Criteria are presented for the choice of the appropriate adjoint formulation for a given problem.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Eli Tziperman, Environmental Sciences and Energy Research, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.

Email: eli@beach.weizmann.ac.il

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