Nonlinear Generation of Power Spectrum : ENSO

Something I learned early on in my research career is that complicated frequency spectra can be generated from simple repeating structures. Consider the spatial frequency spectra produced as a diffraction pattern produced from a crystal lattice. Below is a reflected electron diffraction pattern of a reconstructed hexagonally reconstructed surface of a silicon (Si) single crystal with a lead (Pb) adlayer ( (a) and (b) are different alignments of the beam direction with respect to the lattice). Suffice to say, there is enough information in the patterns to be able to reverse engineer the structure of the surface as (c).

from link

Now consider the ENSO pattern. At first glance, neither the time-series signal nor the Fourier series power spectra appear to be produced by anything periodically regular. Even so, let’s assume that the underlying pattern is tidally regular, being comprised of the expected fortnightly 13.66 day tropical/synodic cycle and the monthly 27.55 day anomalistic cycle synchronized by an annual impulse. Then the forcing power spectrum of f(t) looks like the RED trace on the left-side of the figure below, F(ω). Clearly that is not enough of a frequency spectra (a few delta spikes) necessary to make up the empirically calculated Fourier series for the ENSO data comprising ~40 intricately placed peaks between 0 and 1 cycles/year in BLUE.

click to expand

Yet, if we modulate that with an Laplace’s Tidal Equation solution functional g(f(t)) that has a G(ω) as in the yellow inset above — a cyclic modulation of amplitudes where g(x) is described by two distinct sine-waves — then the complete ENSO spectra is fleshed out in BLACK in the figure above. The effective g(x) is shown in the figure below, where a slower modulation is superimposed over a faster modulation.

So essentially what this is suggesting is that a few tidal factors modulated by two sinusoids produces enough spectral detail to easily account for the ~40 peaks in the ENSO power spectra. It can do this because a modulating sinusoid is an efficient harmonics and cross-harmonics generator, as the Taylor’s series of a sinusoid contains an effectively infinite number of power terms.

To see this process in action, consider the following three figures, which features a slider that allows one to get an intuitive feel for how the LTE modulation adds richness via harmonics in the power spectra.

  1. Start with a mild LTE modulation and start to increase it as in the figure below. A few harmonics begin to emerge as satellites surrounding the forcing harmonics in RED.
drag slider right for less modulation and to the left for more modulation

2. Next, increase the LTE modulation so that it models the slower sinusoid — more harmonics emerge

3. Then add the faster sinusoid, to fully populate the empirically observed ENSO spectral peaks (and matching the time series).

It appears as if by magic, but this is the power of non-linear harmonic generation. Note that the peak labeled AB amongst others is derived from the original A and B as complicated satellite-cross terms, which can be accounted for by expanding all of the terms in the Taylor’s series of the sinusoids. This can be done with some difficulty, or left as is when doing the fit via solver software.

To complete the circle, it’s likely that being exposed to mind-blowing Fourier series early on makes Fourier analysis of climate data less intimidating, as one can apply all the tricks-of-the-trade, which, alas, are considered routine in other disciplines.

Individual charts


Modern Meteorology

This is what amounts to forecast meteorology — a seasoned weatherman will look at the current charts and try to interpret them based on patterns that have been associated with previous observations. They appear to have equal powers of memory recall, pattern matching, and the art of the bluff.

I don’t do that kind of stuff and don’t think I ever will.

If this comes out of a human mind, then that same information can be fed into a knowledgebase and either a backward or forward-chained inference engine could make similar assertions.

And that explains why I don’t do it — a machine should be able to do it better.

What makes an explanation good enough? by Santa Fe Institute

Plausibility and parsimony are the 2P’s of building a convincing argument for a scientific model. First one has to convince someone that the model is built on a plausible premise, and secondly that the premise is simpler and more parsimonious with the data that any other model offered. As physics models are not provable in the sense of math models, the model that wins is always based on a comparison to all other models. Annotated from  DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2020.09.013


Chandler Wobble Forcing

Amazing finding from Alex’s group at NASA JPL

What’s also predictable is that the JPL team probably have a better handle of what causes the wobble on Mars than we have on what causes the Chandler wobble (CW) here on Earth. Such is the case when comparing a fresh model against a stale model based on an early consensus that becomes hard to shake with the passage of time.

Of course, we have our own parsimoniously plausible model of the Earth’s Chandler wobble (described in Chapter 13), that only gets further substantiated over time.

The latest refinement to the geoenergy model is the isolation of Chandler wobble spectral peaks related to the asymmetry of the northern node lunar torque relative to the southern node lunar torque.

Continue reading

QBO Aliased Harmonics

In Chapter 12, we described the model of QBO generated by modulating the draconic (or nodal) lunar forcing with a hemispherical annual impulse that reinforces that effect. This generates the following predicted frequency response peaks:

From section 11.1.1 Harmonics

The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th peaks listed (at 2.423, 1.423, and 0.423) are readily observed in the power spectra of the QBO time-series. When the spectra are averaged over each of the time series, the precisely matched peaks emerge more cleanly above the red noise envelope — see the bottom panel in the figure below (click to expand).

Power spectra of QBO time-series — the average is calculated by normalizing the peaks at 0.423/year.
Each set of peaks is separated by a 1/year interval.

The inset shows what these harmonics provide — essentially the jagged stairstep structure of the semi-annual impulse lag integrated against the draconic modulation.

It is important to note that these harmonics are not the traditional harmonics of a high-Q resonance behavior, where the higher orders are integral multiples of the fundamental frequency — in this case at 0.423 cycles/year. Instead, these are clear substantiation of a forcing response that maintains the frequency spectrum of an input stimulus, thus excluding the possibility that the QBO behavior is a natural resonance phenomena. At best, there may be a 2nd-order response that may selectively amplify parts of the frequency spectrum.

See my latest submission to the ESD Ideas issue : ESDD – ESD Ideas: Long-period tidal forcing in geophysics – application to ENSO, QBO, and Chandler wobble (