The simple idea is that tidal forces play a bigger role in geophysical behaviors than previously thought, and thus helping to explain phenomena that have frustrated scientists for decades.

The idea is simple but the non-linear math (see figure above for ENSO) requires cracking to discover the underlying patterns.

The rationale for the ESD Ideas section in the EGU Earth System Dynamics journal is to get discussion going on innovative and novel ideas. So even though this model is worked out comprehensively in Mathematical Geoenergy, it hasn’t gotten much publicity.

In our book Mathematical GeoEnergy, several geophysical processes are modeled — from conventional tides to ENSO. Each model fits the data applying a concise physics-derived algorithm — the key being the algorithm’s conciseness but not necessarily subjective intuitiveness.

I’ve followed Gell-Mann’s work on complexity over the years and so will try applying his qualitative effective complexity approach to characterize the simplicity of the geophysics models described in the book and on this blog.

Here’s a breakdown from least complex to most complex

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.

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) :

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.

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.

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 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(kx – A 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(kx – A 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.

“Furthermore, by applying ontology‐based approaches for organizing models and techniques, we can set the stage for broader collections of such models discoverable by a general community of designers and analysts. Together with standard access protocols for context modeling, these innovations provide the promise of making environmental context models generally available and reusable, significantly assisting the energy analyst.”

Energy Transition : Applying Probabilities and Physics

What we missed on the first pass was an ontology for citations titled CiTO (Citation Typing Ontology) which enables better classification and keeping track of research lineage. The idea again is to organize and maintain scientific knowledge for engineering and scientific modeling applications. As an example, one can readily see how the Citation Typing Ontology could be applied, with the is_extended_by object property representing much of how science and technology advances — in other words, one finding leading to another.

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.

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.

For the tidal forcing that contributes to length-of-day (LOD) variations [1], only a few factors contribute to a plurality of the variation. These are indicated below by the highlighted circles, where the V_{0}/g amplitude is greatest. The first is the nodal 18.6 year cycle, indicated by the N’ = 1 Doodson argument. The second is the 27.55 day “Mm” anomalistic cycle which is a combination of the perigean 8.85 year cycle (p = -1 Doodson argument) mixed with the 27.32 day tropical cycle (s=1 Doodson argument). The third and strongest is twice the tropical cycle (therefore s=2) nicknamed “Mf”.

These three factors also combine as the primary input forcing to the ENSO model. Yet, even though they are strongest, the combinatorial factors derived from multiplying these main harmonics are vital for generating a quality fit (both for dLOD and even more so for ENSO). What I have done in the past was apply the recommended mix of first- and second-order factors that appear in the dLOD spectra for the ENSO forcing.

Yet there is another approach that makes no assumption of the strongest 2nd-order factors. In this case, one simply expands the primary factors as a combinatorial expansion of cross-terms to the 4th level — this then generates a broad mix of monthly, fortnightly, 9-day, and weekly harmonic cycles. A nested algorithm to generate the 35 constituent terms is :

Counter := 1;
for J in Constituents'Range loop
for K in Constituents'First .. J loop
for L in Constituents'First .. K loop
for M in Constituents'First .. L loop
Tf := Tf + Coefficients (Counter) * Fundamental(J) *
Fundamental(K) * Fundamental(L) * Fundamental (M);
Counter := Counter + 1;
end loop;
end loop;
end loop;
end loop;

This algorithm requires the three fundamental terms plus one unity term to capture most of the cross-terms shown in Table 3 above (The annual cross-terms are automatic as those are generated by the model’s annual impulse). This transforms into a coefficients array that can be included in the LTE search software.

What is missing from the list are the evection terms corresponding to 31.812 (Msm) and 27.093 day cycles. They are retrograde to the prograde 27.55 day anomalistic cycle, so would need an additional 8.848 year perigee cycle bring the count from 3 fundamental terms to 4.

The difference between adding an extra level of harmonics, bringing the combinatorial total from 35 to 126, is not very apparent when looking at the time series (below), as it simply adds shape to the main fortnightly tropical cycle.

Yet it has a significant effect on the ENSO fit, approaching a CC of 0.95 (see inset at right for the scatter correlation). Note that the forcing frequency spectra in the middle right inset still shows a predominately tropical fortnightly peak at 0.26/yr and 0.74/yr.

These extra harmonics also helps in matching to the much more busy SOI time-series. Click on the chart below to inspect how the higher-K wavenumbers may be the origin of what is thought to be noise in the SOI measurements.

Is this a case of overfitting? Try the following cross-validation on orthogonal intervals, and note how tight the model matches the data to the training intervals, without degrading too much on the outer validation region.

I will likely add this combinatorial expansion approach to the LTE fitting software on GitHub soon, but thought to checkpoint the interim progress on the blog. In the end the likely modeling mix will be a combination of the geophysical calibration to the known dLOD response together with a refined collection of these 2nd-order combinatorial tidal constituents. The rationale for why certain terms are important will eventually become more clear as well.

References

Ray, R.D. and Erofeeva, S.Y., 2014. Long‐period tidal variations in the length of day. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 119(2), pp.1498-1509.

In Chapter 12 of the book we model — via LTE — the canonical El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) behavior, fitting to closely-correlated indices such as NINO3.4 and SOI. Another El Nino index was identified circa 2007 that is not closely correlated to the well-known ENSO indices. This index, referred to as El Nino Modoki, appears to have more of a Pacific Ocean centered dipole shape with a bulge flanked by two wing lobes, cycling again as an erratic standing-wave.

If in fact Modoki differs from the conventional ENSO only by a different standing-wave wavenumber configuration, then it should be straightforward to model as an LTE variation of ENSO. The figure below is the model fitted to the El Nino Modoki Index (EMI) (data from JAMSTEC). The cross-validation is included as values post-1940 were used in the training with values prior to this used as a validation test.

The LTE modulation has a higher fundamental wavenumber component than ENSO (plus a weaker factor closer to a zero wavenumber, i.e. some limited LTE modulation as is found with the QBO model).

The input tidal forcing is close to that used for ENSO but appears to lead it by one year. The same strength ordering of tidal factors occurs, but with the next higher harmonic (7-day) of the tropical fortnightly 13.66 day tide slightly higher for EMI than ENSO.

The model fit is essentially a perturbation of ENSO so did not take long to optimize based on the Laplace’s Tidal Equation modeling software. I was provoked to run the optimization after finding a paper yesterday on using machine learning to model El Nino Modoki [1].

It’s clear that what needs to be done is a complete spatio-temporal model fit across the equatorial Pacific, which will be amazing as it will account for the complete mix of spatial standing-wave modes. Maybe in a couple of years the climate science establishment will catch up.

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.