Myth: El Nino/La Nina transitions caused by wind

This 2-D heat map, from Jialin Lin’s research group at The Ohio State University, shows the eastward propagation of the ocean subsurface wave leading to switch from La Niña to El Niño.

The above is from an informative OSU press release from last year titled Solving climate’s toughest questions, one challenge at a time. The following quotes are from that page, bold emphasis mine.

Jialin Lin, associate professor of geography, has spent the last two decades tackling those challenges, and in the past two years, he’s had breakthroughs in answering two of forecasting’s most pernicious questions: predicting the shift between El Niño and La Niña and predicting which hurricanes will rapidly intensify.

Now, he’s turning his attention to creating more accurate models predicting global warming and its impacts, leading an international team of 40 climate experts to create a new book identifying the highest-priority research questions for the next 30-50 years.

… still to be published

Lin set out to create a model that could accurately identify ENSO shifts by testing — and subsequently ruling out — all the theories and possibilities earlier researchers had proposed. Then, Lin realized current models only considered surface temperatures, and he decided to dive deeper.

He downloaded 140 years of deep-ocean temperature data, analyzed them and made a breakthrough discovery.

“After 20 years of research, I finally found that the shift was caused by an ocean wave 100 to 200 meters down in the deep ocean,” Lin said, whose research was published in a Nature journal. “The propagation of this wave from the western Pacific to the eastern Pacific generates the switch from La Niña to El Niño.”

The wave repeatedly appeared two years before an El Niño event developed, but Lin went one step further to explain what generated the wave and discovered it was caused by the moon’s tidal gravitational force.

“The tidal force is even easier to predict,” Lin said. “That will widen the possibility for an even longer lead of prediction. Now you can predict not only for two years before, but 10 years before.”

Essentially, the idea is that these subsurface waves can in no way be caused by surface wind as the latter only are observed later (likely as an after-effect of the sub-surface thermocline nearing the surface and thus modifying the atmospheric pressure gradient). This counters the long-standing belief that ENSO transitions occur as a result of prevailing wind shifts.

The other part of the article concerns correlating hurricane intensification is also interesting.

p.s. It’s all tides : Climatic Drivers of Extreme Sea Level Events Along the
Coastline of Western Australia

Inverting non-autonomous functions

This is an algorithm based on minimum entropy (i.e. negative entropy) considerations which is essentially an offshoot of this paper Entropic Complexity Measured in Context Switching.

The objective is to apply negative entropy to find an optimal solution to a deterministically ordered pattern. To start, let us contrast the behavior of autonomous vs non-autonomous differential equations. One way to think about the distinction is that the transfer function for non-autonomous only depends on the presenting input. Thus, it acts like an op-amp with infinite bandwidth. Or below saturation it gives perfectly linear amplification, so that as shown on the graph to the right, the x-axis input produces an amplified y-axis output as long as the input is within reasonable limits.

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Low #DOF ENSO Model

Given two models of a physical behavior, the “better” model has the highest correlation (or lowest error) to the data and the lowest number of degrees of freedom (#DOF) in terms of tunable parameters. This ratio CC/#DOF of correlation coefficient over DOF is routinely used in automated symbolic regression algorithms and for scoring of online programming contests. A balance between a good error metric and a low complexity score is often referred to as a Pareto frontier.

So for modeling ENSO, the challenge is to fit the quasi-periodic NINO34 time-series with a minimal number of tunable parameters. For a 140 year fitting interval (1880-1920), a naive Fourier series fit could easily take 50-100 sine waves of varying frequencies, amplitudes, and phase to match a low-pass filtered version of the data (any high-frequency components may take many more). However that is horribly complex model and obviously prone to over-fitting. Obviously we need to apply some physics to reduce the #DOF.

Since we know that ENSO is essentially a model of equatorial fluid dynamics in response to a tidal forcing, all that is needed is the gravitational potential along the equator. The paper by Na [1] has software for computing the orbital dynamics of the moon (i.e. lunar ephemerides) and a 1st-order approximation for tidal potential:

The software contains well over 100 sinusoidal terms (each consisting of amplitude, frequency, and phase) to internally model the lunar orbit precisely. Thus, that many DOF are removed, with a corresponding huge reduction in complexity score for any reasonable fit. So instead of a huge set of factors to manipulate (as with many detailed harmonic tidal analyses), what one is given is a range (r = R) and a declination ( ψ=delta) time-series. These are combined in a manner following the figure from Na shown above, essentially adjusting the amplitudes of R and delta while introducing an additional tangential or tractional projection of delta (sin instead of cos). The latter is important as described in NOAA’s tide producing forces page.

Although I roughly calibrated this earlier [2] via NASA’s HORIZONS ephemerides page (input parameters shown on the right), the Na software allows better flexibility in use. The two calculations essentially give identical outputs and independent verification that the numbers are as expected.

As this post is already getting too long, this is the result of doing a Laplace’s Tidal Equation fit (adding a few more DOF), demonstrating that the limited #DOF prevents over-fitting on a short training interval while cross-validating outside of this band.

or this

This low complexity and high accuracy solution would win ANY competition, including the competition for best seasonal prediction with a measly prize of 15,000 Swiss francs [3]. A good ENSO model is worth billions of $$ given the amount it will save in agricultural planning and its potential for mitigation of human suffering in predicting the timing of climate extremes.

REFERENCES

[1] Na, S.-H. Chapter 19 – Prediction of Earth tide. in Basics of Computational Geophysics (eds. Samui, P., Dixon, B. & Tien Bui, D.) 351–372 (Elsevier, 2021). doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-820513-6.00022-9.

[2] Pukite, P.R. et al “Ephemeris calibration of Laplace’s tidal equation model for ENSO” AGU Fall Meeting, 2018. doi:10.1002/essoar.10500568.1

[3] 1 CHF ~ $1 so 15K = chump change.


Added: High resolution power spectra of ENSO forcing
see link

Review: Modeling of ocean equatorial currents in the phase of El Niño and La Niña

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S037702652100018X#!

The equatorial zone acts as a waveguide. As highlights they list the following bullet-points, taking advantage that the Coriolis effect at the equator vanishes or cancels.

This is a critical assertion, since — as shown in Mathematical Geoenergy –the Chandler wobble (a nutational oscillation) is forced by tides, then transitively so is the El Nino. So when the authors state the consequence is of both nutation and a gravity influence, it is actually the gravity influence of the moon and sun (and slightly Jupiter) that is the root cause.

The article has several equations that claim analytical solutions, but the generated PDF format has apparently not rendered the markup correctly. Many “+” signs are missing from equations. I have seen this issue before when I have tried to generate PDF pages from a markup doc, and assume that is what is happening. Assume the hard-copy version is OK so may have to go to the library to retrieve it, or perhaps ask the authors for a hard-copy.

main author:

Sergey А. Arsen’yev

Dept. of Earth and Planetary Physics of Schmidt’s Institute of the Earth’s Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, 10 Bolshaya Gruzinskaya, Moscow, 123995, Russia

Arsy7@mail.ru

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

https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img922/7013/VRro0m.png




 


Overfitting+Cross-Validation: ENSO→AMO

I presented at the 2018 AGU Fall meeting on the topic of cross-validation. From those early results, I updated a fitted model comparison between the Pacific ocean’s ENSO time-series and the Atlantic Ocean’s AMO time-series. The premise is that the tidal forcing is essentially the same in the two oceans, but that the standing-wave configuration differs. So the approach is to maintain a common-mode forcing in the two basins while only adjusting the Laplace’s tidal equation (LTE) modulation.

If you don’t know about these completely orthogonal time series, the thought that one can avoid overfitting the data — let alone two sets simultaneously — is unheard of (Michael Mann doesn’t even think that the AMO is a real oscillation based on reading his latest research article called “Absence of internal multidecadal and interdecadal oscillations in climate model simulations“).

This is the latest product (click to expand)

Read this backwards from H to A.

H = The two tidal forcing inputs for ENSO and AMO — differs really only by scale and a slight offset

G = The constituent tidal forcing spectrum comparison of the two — primarily the expected main constituents of the Mf fortnightly tide and the Mm monthly tide (and the Mt composite of Mf × Mm), amplified by an annual impulse train which creates a repeating Brillouin zone in frequency space.

E&F = The LTE modulation for AMO, essentially comprised of one strong high-wavenumber modulation as shown in F

C&D = The LTE modulation for ENSO, a strong low-wavenumber that follows the El Nino La Nina cycles and then a faster modulation

B = The AMO fitted model modulating H with E

A = The ENSO fitted model modulating the other H with C

Ordinarily, this would take eons worth of machine learning compute time to determine this non-linear mapping, but with knowledge of how to solve Navier-Stokes, it becomes a tractable problem.

Now, with that said, what does this have to do with cross-validation? By fitting only to the ENSO time-series, the model produced does indeed have many degrees of freedom (DOF), based on the number of tidal constituents shown in G. Yet, by constraining the AMO fit to require essentially the same constituent tidal forcing as for ENSO, the number of additional DOF introduced is minimal — note the strong spike value in F.

Since parsimony of a model fit is based on information criteria such as number of DOF, as that is exactly what is used as a metric characterizing order in the previous post, then it would be reasonable to assume that fitting a waveform as complex as B with only the additional information of F cross-validates the underlying common-mode model according to any information criteria metric.

For further guidance, this is an informative article on model selection in regards to complexity — “A Primer for Model Selection: The Decisive Role of Model Complexity

excerpt:

The Search for Order

Chap 10 Mathematical Geoenergy

For the LTE formulation along the equator, the analytical solution reduces to g(f(t)), where g(x) is a periodic function. Without knowing what g(x) is, we can use the frequency-domain entropy or spectral entropy of the Fourier series mapping an estimated x=f(t) forcing amplitude to a measured climate index time series such as ENSO. The frequency-domain entropy is the sum or integral of this mapping of x to g(x) in reciprocal space applying the Shannon entropy –I(f).ln(I(f)) normalized over the I(f) frequency range, which is the power spectral (frequency) density of the mapping from the modeled forcing to the time-series waveform sample.

This measures the entropy or degree of disorder of the mapping. So to maximize the degree of order, we minimize this entropy value.

This calculated entropy is a single scalar metric that eliminates the need for evaluating various cyclic g(x) patterns to achieve the best fit. Instead, what it does is point to a highly-ordered spectrum (top panel in the above figure), of which the delta spikes can then be reverse engineered to deduce the primary frequency components arising from the the LTE modulation factor g(x).

The approach works particularly well once the spectral spikes begin to emerge from the background. In terms of a physical picture, what is actually emerging are the principle standing wave solutions for particular wavenumbers. One can see this in the LTE modulation spectrum below where there is a spike at a wavenumber at 1.5 and one at around 10 in panel A (isolating the sin spectrum and cosine spectrum separately instead of the quadrature of the two giving the spectral intensity). This is then reverse engineered as a fit to the actual LTE modulation g(x) in panel B. Panel D is the tidal forcing x=f(t) that minimized the Shannon entropy, thus creating the final fit g(f(t)) in panel C when the LTE modulation is applied to the forcing.

The approach does work, which is quite a boon to the efficiency of iterative fitting towards a solution, reducing the number of DOF involved in the calculation. Prior to this, a guess for the LTE modulation was required and the iterative fit would need to evolve towards the optimal modulation periods. In other words, either approach works, but the entropy approach may provide a quicker and more efficient path to discovering the underlying standing-wave order.

I will eventually add this to the LTE fitting software distro available on GitHub. This may also be applicable to other measures of entropy such as Tallis, Renyi, multi-scale, and perhaps Bispectral entropy, and will add those to the conventional Shannon entropy measure as needed.

Gravitational Pull

In Chapter 12 of the book, we provide an empirical gravitational forcing term that can be applied to the Laplace’s Tidal Equation (LTE) solution for modeling ENSO. The inverse squared law is modified to a cubic law to take into account the differential pull from opposite sides of the earth.

excerpt from Mathematical Geoenergy (Wiley/2018)

The two main terms are the monthly anomalistic (Mm) cycle and the fortnightly tropical/draconic pair (Mf, Mf’ w/ a 18.6 year nodal modulation). Due to the inverse cube gravitational pull found in the denominator of F(t), faster harmonic periods are also created — with the 9-day (Mt) created from the monthly/fortnightly cross-term and the weekly (Mq) from the fortnightly crossed against itself. It’s amazing how few terms are needed to create a canonical fit to a tidally-forced ENSO model.

The recipe for the model is shown in the chart below (click to magnify), following sequentially steps (A) through (G) :

(A) Long-period fortnightly and anomalistic tidal terms as F(t) forcing
(B) The Fourier spectrum of F(t) revealing higher frequency cross terms
(C) An annual impulse modulates the forcing, reinforcing the amplitude
(D) The impulse is integrated producing a lagged quasi-periodic input
(E) Resulting Fourier spectrum is complex due to annual cycle aliasing
(F) Oceanic response is a Laplace’s Tidal Equation (LTE) modulation
(G) Final step is fit the LTE modulation to match the ENSO time-series

The tidal forcing is constrained by the known effects of the lunisolar gravitational torque on the earth’s length-of-day (LOD) variations. An essentially identical set of monthly, fortnightly, 9-day, and weekly terms are required for both a solid-body LOD model fit and a fluid-volume ENSO model fit.

Fitting tidal terms to the dLOD/dt data is only complicated by the aliasing of the annual cycle, making factors such as the weekly 7.095 and 6.83-day cycles difficult to distinguish.

If we apply the same tidal terms as forcing for matching dLOD data, we can use the fit below as a perturbed ENSO tidal forcing. Not a lot of difference here — the weekly harmonics are higher in magnitude.

Modified initial calibration of lunar terms for fitting ENSO

So the only real unknown in this process is guessing the LTE modulation of steps (F) and (G). That’s what differentiates the inertial response of a spinning solid such as the earth’s core and mantle from the response of a rotating liquid volume such as the equatorial Pacific ocean. The former is essentially linear, but the latter is non-linear, making it an infinitely harder problem to solve — as there are infinitely many non-linear transformations one can choose to apply. The only reason that I stumbled across this particular LTE modulation is that it comes directly from a clever solution of Laplace’s tidal equations.

for full derivation see Mathematical Geoenergy (Wiley/2018)

Reversing Traveling Waves

For the solution to Laplace’s Tidal Equation described in Chapter 12, the spatial and temporal results are separable, leading to a non-linear standing-wave time-series formulation:

sin(kx) sin(A sin(wt) )

By analogy to a linear standing-wave formulation, a solution such as

sin(kx) sin(wt)

with the following traveling wave solution (propagating in the +x direction):

sin(kx-wt)

becomes the following in the non-linear LTE solution mode:

sin(kxA sin(wt) )

This is also a traveling wave, but with the characteristic property of being able to periodically reverse direction from +x to –x depending on the value of A and w. As an intuitive aid, a standing wave can be considered as the superposition of two traveling waves traveling in opposite directions:

sin(kxA sin(wt) ) + sin(kx + A sin(wt) )

Here the cross terms cancel after applying the trig identity on sums, and the separable standing-wave result similar to the first equation results. But, whenever there is an imbalance of +x and -x travelling waves, a periodic reversing traveling-wave/standing-wave mix results. This is shown in the following animation, where a mix of nonlinear traveling-waves and standing-waves show the periodic reversal in direction quite clearly.

This reversal is actually observed in ocean measurements, as exemplified in this recent research article:

From their Figure 3, one can see this reversing process as the trajectory of a measured Argo float drift:

If that is not clear enough, the red arrows in the following annotated figure show the direction of the float motion. The drifting floats may not always exactly follow a trajectory as dictated by the velocity of a traveling wave, as this is partly a phase velocity with limited lateral volume displacement, but clearly a large wave-train such as a Tropical Instability Wave will certainly move a float. At least some of this is due to eddy behavior as the reversal is a natural consequence of a circular vortex motion of a large eddy.

Applying the LTE model to complete spatio-temporal data sets such as what Figure 3 is derived from would likely show an interesting match, adding value to the latest ENSO results, but this will require some digging into the data availability.

Machine Learning of ENSO

This topic will gain steam in the coming years. The following paper generates quite a good cross-validation for SOI, shown in the figure below.

  1. Xiaoqun, C. et al. ENSO prediction based on Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM). IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, 799, 012035 (2020).

The x-axis appears to be in months and likely starts in 1979, so it captures the 2016 El Nino (El Nino is negative for SOI). Still have no idea how the neural net arrived at the fit other than it being able to discern the cyclic behavior from the historical waveform between 1979 and 2010. From the article itself, it appears that neither do the authors.

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