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Michael Ghil

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Michael Ghil

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We study a diffusive energy-balance climate model, governed by a nonlinear parabolic partial differential equation. Three positive steady-state solutions of this equation are found; they correspond to three possible climates of our planet: an interglacial (nearly identical to the present climate), a glacial, and a completely ice-covered earth. We consider also models similar to the main one studied, and determine the number of their steady states. All the models have albedo continuously varying with latitude and temperature, and entirely diffusive horizontal heat transfer. The diffusion is taken to be nonlinear as well as linear.

We investigate the stability under small perturbations of the main model's climates. A stability criterion is derived, and its application shows that the “present climate” and the “deep freeze” are stable, whereas the model's glacial is unstable. A variational principle is introduced to confirm the results of this stability analysis.

We examine the dependence of the number of steady states and of their stability on the average solar radiation. The main result is that for a sufficient decrease in solar radiation (∼2%) the glacial and interglacial solutions disappear, leaving the ice-covered earth as the only possible climate.

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Michael Ghil and Ricardo Todling

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Sequential data assimilation schemes approaching true optimality for sizable atmospheric models are becoming a reality. The behavior of the Kalman filter (KF) under difficult conditions needs therefore to be understood. In this two-part paper the authors implemented a KF for a two-dimensional shallow-water model with one or two layers. The model is linearized about a basic flow that depends on latitude; this permits the one-layer (1-L) case to be barotropically unstable. Constant vertical shear in the two-layer (2-L) case induces baroclinic instability.

The stable and unstable 1-L cases were studied in Part I. In the unstable case, even a very small number of observations can keep the forecast and analysis errors from the exponential growth induced by the flow's instability. In Part II, the authors now consider the 2-L, baroclinically stable and unstable cases. Simple experiments show that both cases are, quite similar to their barotropic counterparts. Once again, the KF is shown to keep the estimated flow's error bars bounded, even when a small number of observations—taken with realistic frequency—is utilized.

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Fei Chen and Michael Ghil

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A hybrid coupled ocean–atmosphere model is used to investigate low-frequency variability in the climate system. The model's atmospheric component is a Budyko-Sellers-North, two-dimensional energy-balance model; the oceanic component is a simplified general circulation model. The coupled model is confined to an idealized, rectangular North Atlantic basin. In the present model version, the ocean density depends exclusively on temperature.

An interdecadal oscillation with a period of 40–50 years is found in the hybrid coupled model when model parameters are within the climatological range, even though density does not depend on salinity. This interdecadal oscillation is characterized by a pair of vortices of opposite signs, that grow and decay in quadrature with each other in the ocean's upper layer; their centers follow each other anticlockwise through the northwestern quadrant of the model domain.

The interdecadal oscillation's physical mechanism resembles that of the interdecadal oscillation analyzed in an earlier, uncoupled model by the same authors. Central to the mechanism is the prescribed component in the surface heat fluxes. In this coupled model, the prescribed forcing component comes from solar radiation. Surface-density variations in high latitudes drive the oscillation and are due to the cooling effect of atmospheric forcing there.

Sensitivity studies are performed by adjusting two free parameters in the model: the atmospheric thermal diffusion coefficient and air-sea coupling coefficient. The 40–50 year oscillation arises, by Hopf bifurcation as the model parameters cross the neutral stability curve. The resulting limit cycle is fairly robust, exists in a wide parameter range, and responds more to the diffusion parameter than the coupling parameter. Larger values of both parameters reduce the amplitude of the interdecadal oscillation, but neither affects crucially its period.

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Yizhak Feliks and Michael Ghil

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The instability of the downwelling front along the southern coast of Asia Minor is studied with a multimode quasigeostrophic model. Linear analysis shows that the most unstable wave has a length of about 100 km, The wavelength depends only very weakly on the transversal scale of the front. The wave period is larger by an order of magnitude than the e-folding time; that is, rapid local growth occurs with little propagation. The growth rate is proportional to the maximum of the speed of the downwelling westward jet.

The evolution of the frontal waves can be divided into three stages. At first, the evolution is mainly due to linear instability; the second stage is characterized by closed eddy formation; and finally, isolated eddies separate from the front and penetrate into the open sea. The largest amount of available potential energy is transferred to kinetic energy and into the barotropic mode during the second, eddy-forming stage, when several dipoles develop in this mode. The formation of anticyclonic eddies is due to advection of the ridges of the unstable wave's first baroclinic mode by the barotropic dipole. The baroclinic eddies ride on the barotropic dipoles. The propagation of such dipole-rider systems is determined mainly by the evolution of the corresponding barotropic dipole.

These results suggest that the warm- and salty-core eddies observed in the Eastern Mediterranean are due, at least in part, to the instability of the downwelling front along the basin's northeastern coastline. There is both qualitative and quantitative similarity between the observed and calculated eddies in their radius (35–50 km), thermal structure, and distribution along the coast.

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Shi Jiang and Michael Ghil

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Low-frequency variability of western boundary currents (WBCs) is pervasive in both observations and numerical models of the oceans. Because advection is of the essence in WBCs, nonlinearities are thought to be important in causing their variability. In numerical models, this variability can be distorted by our incomplete knowledge of the system’s dynamics, manifested in model errors. A reduced-gravity shallow-water model is used to study the interaction of model error with nonlinearity. Here our focus is on a purely periodic solution and a weakly aperiodic one.

For the periodic case, the noise-corrupted system loses its periodicity due to nonlinear processes. For the aperiodic case, the intermittent occurrences of two relatively persistent states—a straight jet with high total energy and a meandering one with low total energy—in the perturbed model are almost out of phase with the unperturbed one. For both cases, the simulation errors are trapped in the WBC region, where the nonlinear dynamics is most vigorous.

Satellite altimeters measure sea surface height globally in space and almost synoptically in time. They provide an opportunity to track WBC variability through its pronounced sea surface signature. By assimilating simulated Geosat data into the stochastically perturbed model with the improved optimal interpolation method, the authors can faithfully track the periodic behavior that had been lost and capture the correct occurrences of two relatively persistent patterns for the aperiodic case. The simulation errors accumulating in the WBC region are suppressed, thus improving the system’s predictability. The domain-averaged rms errors reach a statistical equilibrium below the observational error level.

Comparison experiments using simulated Geosat and TOPEX/POSEIDON tracks show that spatially dense sampling yields lower rms errors than temporally frequent sampling for the present model. A criterion defining spatial oversampling—that is, diminishing returns—is also addressed.

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Zheng Hao and Michael Ghil

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A major error source in the numerical simulation of tropical oceans is the uncertainty in wind stress forcing. A reduced-gravity shallow-water model has been used to test how assimilated ocean data correct simulation errors caused by erroneous wind stress in the tropics. The geometry of the basin is rectangular and symmetric about the equator, and the long-wave approximation is applied. All experiments are of the identical-twin type: the “observations” are generated by sampling the desired reference solution, and the data are assimilated by optimal interpolation into the same model, with wind stress forcing different from that in the reference case.

In this paper, three types of wind stress errors are considered: errors of timing only, as well as persistent errors, systematic or stochastic. The relative usefulness of thermocline depth and current observations, and the effect of data distribution on state estimation are examined. The role of equatorial ocean waves in the process of data assimilation is also studied.

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Shi Jiang and Michael Ghil

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Numerical ocean diagnoses and predictions rely on two types of information: model information and data information. Sequential estimation theory shows that the most probable state is a linear combination of the two, weighted according to their error statistics. A Kalman filter technique is applied to a one-layer reduced-gravity linear ocean model in a rectangular midlatitude basin. The model reproduces the main features of the subtropical wind-driven gyre; the filter is used to study the dynamical behavior of the error statistics.

On a midlatitude f plane, the error-correlation patterns among the state variables revealed by the Kalman filter are isotropic and homogeneous and satisfy a geostrophic relation. Introducing the β effect breaks the isotropy and homogeneity of the correlations, inducing behavior that is in agreement with two observational facts: 1) the latitudinal dependence of horizontal correlations and 2) the elliptic correlation shape of the mass field, elongated along the southwest–northeast orientation in the Northern Hemisphere. When a meridional line of observations is assimilated intermittently, the correlation patterns are dynamically adjusted to be wider to the east of the observing line than to the west. This is due to the westward propagation of errors by the model's Rossby wave dynamics.

The influence function of observations, based on the gain matrix of the Kalman filter, is subjected to polar decomposition into an amplitude part and a vector normalized by the amplitude—that is, a solid angle. The amplitude part contains the current observational information and determines the absolute weight given to an observation. The angular part is related to the previous observations only and reflects the structure of relative weights, whose behavior is similar to that of error correlations.

A criterion measuring the relative importance of different types of observations is defined, using Kalman filter techniques and geostrophic-error assumptions. The results from numerical experiments to examine the correctness of this criterion resolve apparent contradictions among the recent results of R. Daley, M. Ghil, and N. A. Phillips.

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Nathan Paldor and Michael Ghil

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Finite-wavelength instabilities of a coupled density front with zero potential vorticity are found for the single-layer and the two-layer problems. These instabilities result from the resonance between two distinct waves whose real phase speeds coalesce. In the single-layer problem, the range of wavenumbers over which the coalescence takes place decreases with increasing wavenumber; consequently, the instability exponents and the growth rates also decrease. For shallow lower layers, the coalescence range increases with increasing wavenumber; at large wavenumbers, the coalescence range becomes continuous, while the instability exponent is approaching a constant value. The growth rate in the two-layer problem increases, therefore, linearly with wavenumber and the short waves fastest. These short-wave instabilities are qualitatively reminiscent of small-scale features along coastal fronts and in laboratory experiments.

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Michael Ghil and Kingtse Mo

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In Part II of this two-part article, we complete the systematic examination of oscillatory modes in the global atmosphere by studying 12 years of 500 mb geopotential heights in the Southern Hemisphere. As in Part I, for the tropics and Northern Hemisphere extratropics, the data were band-pass filtered to focus on intraseasonal (IS) phenomena, and spatial EOFs were obtained. The leading principal components were subjected to singular spectrum analysis (SSA), in order to identify nonlinear IS oscillations with high statistical confidence.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the dominant mode has a period of 23 days, with spatial patterns carried by the second and third winter EOF of the IS band. It has a zonal wavenumber-four structure. The 40-day mode is second, and dominated by wavenumbers three and four, while a 16-day mode is too weak to separate its spatial behavior from the previous two. The IS dynamics in the Southern Hemisphere is more complex and dominated by shorter wavenumbers than the Northern Hemisphere. No statistically significant correlations between the Southern Hemisphere and the tropics or the Northern Hemisphere are apparent in the IS band.

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