Using transfer functions to quantify El Niño Southern Oscillation dynamics in data and models
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CitationMacMartin, Douglas G., and Eli Tziperman. 2014. “Using Transfer Functions to Quantify El Niño Southern Oscillation Dynamics in Data and Models.” Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 470 (2169): 20140272. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspa.2014.0272.
AbstractTransfer function tools commonly used in engineering control analysis can be used to better understand the dynamics of El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), compare data with models and identify systematic model errors. The transfer function describes the frequency-dependent input-output relationship between any pair of causally related variables, and can be estimated from time series. This can be used first to assess whether the underlying relationship is or is not frequency dependent, and if so, to diagnose the underlying differential equations that relate the variables, and hence describe the dynamics of individual subsystem processes relevant to ENSO. Estimating process parameters allows the identification of compensating model errors that may lead to a seemingly realistic simulation in spite of incorrect model physics. This tool is applied here to the TAO array ocean data, the GFDL-CM2.1 and CCSM4 general circulation models, and to the Cane-Zebiak ENSO model. The delayed oscillator description is used to motivate a few relevant processes involved in the dynamics, although any other ENSO mechanism could be used instead. We identify several differences in the processes between the models and data that may be useful for model improvement. The transfer function methodology is also useful in understanding the dynamics and evaluating models of other climate processes.
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