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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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Ricardo Todling and Michael Ghil

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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 we implement 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.

A model-error covariance matrix for the KF simulations is constructed based on the hypothesis that an ensemble of slow modes dominates the errors. In the 1-L case, the system is stable for a meridionally constant basic flow. Assuming equipartition of energy in the construction of the model-error covariance matrix has a deleterious effect on the process of data assimilation in both the stable and unstable cases. Estimation errors are found to be smaller for a model-error spectrum that decays exponentially with wavenumber than an equipartition spectrum. Then the model-error covariance matrix for the 2-L model is also obtained using a decaying-energy spectrum.

The barotropically unstable 1-L case is studied for a basic velocity profile that has a cosine-square shape. Given this linear instability, forecast errors grow exponentially when no observations are present. The KF keeps the errors bounded, even when very few observations are available. The best placement of a single observation is determined in this simple situation and shown to be where the instability is strongest. The 2-L case and a comparison with the performance of a currently operational data assimilation scheme will appear in Part II.

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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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Fei Chen and Michael Ghil

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An idealized North Atlantic Ocean model is forced by climatological wind stress, restoring temperature, and a diagnosed salinity flux. Both centennial and interdecadal oscillations are sustained in the model if the diagnosed salinity flux is characterized by net evaporation in high latitudes. To investigate further the role of salinity fluxes two different linear profiles are imposed: one has net evaporation in high latitudes and the other net precipitation. The first salinity flux induces a purely interdecadal oscillation in the model, while the second one causes a millennial and a decadal-to-interdecadal oscillation. Next, the authors consider a boundary condition for temperature expressed as the sum of a fixed heat flux and a restoring term. Constant heat flux characterized by net cooling in high latitudes leads to an interdecadal oscillation similar to the one caused by net evaporation.

Both the decadal-to-interdecadal and the purely interdecadal oscillation are upper-ocean phenomena. Inter-decadal anomalies are mainly confined to high latitudes, with their center moving anticlockwise near the north-west corner of the model domain; they are amplified and sink in that region. Decadal-to-interdecadal anomalies are mainly confined to midlatitudes, advected eastward by the mean flow, and disappear near the cast coast.

The physical mechanisms for the two oscillations are different. The interdecadal oscillation is caused by surface-density variations in northern high latitudes; variations are due to either net evaporation from the applied salinity flux or constant cooling from the applied heat flux. The decadal-to-interdecadal oscillation is a by-product of deep-water warming, due to the strong braking effect of salinity forcing on thermal forcing: surface saline water from the subtropics overlies continuously warming intermediate water to provide a favorable environment for the decadal-to-interdecadal oscillation. Further analysis implies that in a fully coupled ocean-atmosphere situation the decadal-to-interdecadal oscillation is less likely to exist.

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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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Masahide Kimoto and Michael Ghil

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Recurrent and persistent flow patterns are identified by examining multivariate probability density functions (PDFs) in the phase space of large-scale atmospheric motions. This idea is pursued systematically here in the hope of clarifying the extent to which intraseasonal variability can be described and understood in terms of multiple flow regimes.

Bivariate PDFs of the Northern Hemisphere (NH) wintertime anomaly heights at 700 mb are examined in the present paper, using a 37-year dataset. The two-dimensional phase plane is defined by the two leading empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) of the anomaly fields. PDFs on this plane exhibit synoptically intriguing and statistically significant inhomogeneities on the periphery of the distribution. It is shown that these inhomogeneities are due to the existence of persistent and recurrent anomaly patterns, well-known as dominant teleconnection patterns; that is, the Pacific/North American (PNA) pattern, its reverse, and zonal and blocked phases of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). It is argued that the inhomogeneities are obscured when PDFs are examined in a smaller-dimensional subspace than dynamically desired.

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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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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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