Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics (Jan 2003)
Local predictability in a simple model of atmospheric balance
The 2 degree-of-freedom elastic pendulum equations can be considered as the lowest order analogue of interacting low-frequency (slow) Rossby-Haurwitz and high-frequency (fast) gravity waves in the atmosphere. The strength of the coupling between the low and the high frequency waves is controlled by a single coupling parameter, e, defined by the ratio of the fast and slow characteristic time scales. In this paper, efficient, high accuracy, and symplectic structure preserving numerical solutions are designed for the elastic pendulum equation in order to study the role balanced dynamics play in local predictability. To quantify changes in the local predictability, two measures are considered: the local Lyapunov number and the leading singular value of the tangent linear map. It is shown, both based on theoretical considerations and numerical experiments, that there exist regions of the phase space where the local Lyapunov number indicates exceptionally high predictability, while the dominant singular value indicates exceptionally low predictability. It is also demonstrated that the local Lyapunov number has a tendency to choose instabilities associated with balanced motions, while the dominant singular value favors instabilities related to highly unbalanced motions. The implications of these findings for atmospheric dynamics are also discussed.