The SAO and Annual Disturbances

In Chapter 11 of the book Mathematical GeoEnergy, we model the QBO of equatorial stratospheric winds, but only touch on the related cycle at even higher altitudes, the semi-annual oscillation (SAO). The figure at the top of a recent post geometrically explains the difference between SAO and QBO — the basic idea is that the SAO follows the solar tide and not the lunar tide because of a lower atmospheric density at higher altitudes. Thus, the heat-based solar tide overrides the gravitational lunar+solar tide and the resulting oscillation is primarily a harmonic of the annual cycle.

Figure 1 : The SAO modeled with the GEM software fit to 1 hPa data along the equator
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Why couldn’t Lindzen figure out QBO?

Background: see Chapter 11 of the book.

In research articles published ~50 years ago, Richard Lindzen made these assertions:

“For oscillations of tidal periods, the nature of the forcing is clear”

Lindzen, Richard S. “Planetary waves on beta-planes.” Mon. Wea. Rev 95.7 (1967): 441-451.


5. Lunar semidiurnal tide

One rationale for studying tides is that they are motion systems for which we know the periods perfectly, and the forcing almost as well (this is certainly the case for gravitational tides). Thus, it is relatively easy to isolate tidal phenomena in the data, to calculate tidal responses in the atmosphere, and to compare the two. Briefly, conditions for comparing theory and observation are relatively ideal. Moreover, if theory is incapable of explaining observations for such a simple system, we may plausibly be concerned with our ability to explain more complicated systems.

Lunar tides are especially well suited to such studies since it is unlikely that lunar periods could be produced by anything other than the lunar tidal potential.

Lindzen, R.S. and Hong, S.S., 1974. “Effects of mean winds and horizontal temperature gradients on solar and lunar semidiurnal tides in the atmosphere“. Journal of the atmospheric sciences31(5), pp.1421-1446.
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EGU 2020 Notes

Notes from the EGU 2020 meeting from last week. The following list of presentation pages are those those that I have commented on, with responses from authors or from chat sessions included. What’s useful about this kind of virtual meeting is that the exchange is concrete and there’s none of the ambiguity in paraphrasing one-on-one discussions that take place at an on-site gathering.

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The Oil Shock Model and Compartmental Models

Chapter 5 of the book describes a model of the production of oil based on discoveries followed by a sequence of lags relating to decisions made and physical constraints governing the flow of that oil. As it turns out, this so-named Oil Shock Model is mathematically similar to the compartmental models used to model contagion growth in epidemiology, pharmaceutical/drug deliver systems, and other applications as demonstrated in Appendix E of the book.

One aspect of the 2020 pandemic is that everyone with any math acumen is becoming aware of contagion models such as the SIR compartmental model, where S I R stands for Susceptible, Infectious, and Recovered individuals. The Infectious part of the time progression within a population resembles a bell curve that peaks at a particular point indicating maximum contagiousness. The hope is that this either peaks quickly or that it doesn’t peak at too high a level.

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Wind Energy Dispersion

In Chapter 11 of the book, we derive the distribution of wind speeds and show what role the concept of maximum entropy plays into the formulation. It’s a simple derivation and one that can be extended by layering more dispersion on the variability, in effect superposing more uncertainty on the Rayleigh or Weibull distribution that is typically used to quantify wind speed distribution. This is often referred to as superstatistics, first described by Beck, C., & Cohen, E. (2003) in Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and Its Applications, 322, 267–275.

A recent article uploaded to arXiv [1] gives an alternate treatment to the one we described. This follows Beck’s original approach more than our simplified formulation but each is an important contribution to understanding and applying the math of wind variability. The introduction to their article is valuable in providing a rationale for doing the analysis.

“Mitigating climate change demands a transition towards renewable electricity generation, with wind power being a particularly promising technology. Long periods either of high or of low wind therefore essentially define the necessary amount of storage to balance the power system. While the general statistics of wind velocities have been studied extensively, persistence (waiting) time statistics of wind is far from well understood. Here, we investigate the statistics of both high- and low-wind persistence. We find heavy tails and explain them as a superposition of different wind conditions, requiring q-exponential distributions instead of exponential distributions. Persistent wind conditions are not necessarily caused by stationary atmospheric circulation patterns nor by recurring individual weather types but may emerge as a combination of multiple weather types and circulation patterns. Understanding wind persistence statistically and synoptically, may help to ensure a reliable and economically feasible future energy system, which uses a high share of wind generation. “

[1]Weber, J. et al. “Wind Power Persistence is Governed by Superstatistics”. arXiv preprint arXiv:1810.06391 (2019).


In Chapter 11 of the book, we concentrated on the mechanism behind the QBO of stratospheric equatorial winds. In a related topic (but only briefly touched on in the book), there is interesting data from a presentation on the equatorial-only Semi-Annual Oscillation (SAO) of the upper stratosphere and lower mesosphere wind pattern [1]. The distinction between QBO and the SAO is that the QBO has a longer periodic cycle and exists at altitudes lower in the stratosphere than the SAO.

[1] T. Hirooka, T. Ohata, and N. Eguchi, “Modulation of the Semiannual Oscillation Induced by Sudden Stratospheric Warming Events,” in ISWA2016, Tokyo, Japan, 2016, p. 16.

— presentation slides from International Symposium on the Whole Atmosphere

What’s interesting at the core fundamental level is that the SAO is understood by consensus to be forced by a semi-annual cycle (a resonant condition happening to match 1/2 year is just too coincidental) whereas there is no consensus behind the mechanism behind the QBO period (the tidal connection is only available from Chapter 12). To make the mathematical connection, the following shows how the SAO draws from the QBO tidal model.

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Peak Oil Barrel

The first part of our book Mathematical GeoEnergy deals with the mathematics behind the depletion of fossil fuels, and specifically crude oil. One of the co-authors, Dennis, helps maintain and moderate the Peak Oil Barrel blog. Recently, Dennis posted a blog entry on Oil Shock model scenarios, which is based partly on the mathematics described in Chapter 5 (and elsewhere in the book, as the shock model is a fundamental aspect of modeling oil depletion).

There’s lots of commentary on the POB blog, including climate science topics on the Non-Petroleum comment threads, so worthwhile to have it bookmarked.

Teleconnections vs Common-mode mechanisms

The term teleconnection has long been defined as interactions between behaviors separated by geographical distances. Using Google Scholar, the first consistent use in a climate context was by De Geer in the 1920’s [1]. He astutely contrasted the term teleconnection with telecorrelation, with the implication being that the latter describes a situation where two behaviors are simply correlated through some common-mode mechanism — in the case that De Geer describes, the self-registration of the annual solar signal with respect to two geographically displaced sedimentation features.

As an alternate analogy, the hibernation of groundhogs and black bears isn’t due to some teleconnection between the two species but simply a correlation due to the onset of winter. The timing of cold weather is the common-mode mechanism that connects the two behaviors. This may seem obvious enough that the annual cycle should and often does serve as the null hypothesis for ascertaining correlations of climate data against behavioral models.

Yet, this distinction seems to have been lost over the years, as one will often find papers hypothesizing that one climate behavior is influencing another geographically distant behavior via a physical teleconnection (see e.g. [2]). This has become an increasingly trendy viewpoint since the GWPF advisor A.A. Tsonis added the term network to indicate that behaviors may contain linkages between multiple nodes, and that the seeming complexity of individual behavior is only discovered by decoding the individual teleconnections [3].

That’s acceptable as a theory, but in practice, it’s still important to consider the possible common-mode mechanisms that may be involved. In this post we will look at a possible common-mode mechanisms between the atmospheric behavior of QBO (see Chapter 11 in the book) and the oceanic behavior of ENSO (see Chapter 12). As reference [3] suggests, this may be a physical teleconnection, but the following analysis shows how a common-mode forcing may be much more likely.

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Detailed Forcing of QBO

In Chapter 11 of the book, we present the geophysical recipe for the forcing of the QBO of equatorial stratospheric winds. As explained, the fundamental forcing is supplied by the lunar draconic cycle and impulse modulated by a semi-annual (equatorial) nodal crossing of the sun. It’s clear that the QBO cycle has asymptotically approached a value of 2.368 years, which is explained by its near perfect equivalence to the physically aliased draconic period. Moreover, there is also strong evidence that the modulation/fluctuation of the QBO period from cycle to cycle is due to the regular variation in the lunar inclination, thus impacting the precise timing and shape of the draconic sinusoid. That modulation is described in this post.

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