Multivariate and Multiscale Dependence in the Global Climate System Revealed Through Complex Networks

Karsten Steinhaeuser, Auroop R. Ganguly, Nitesh V. Chawla
Climate dynamics 39.3-4 (2012): 889-895.
Publication Date: 
August, 2012

A systematic characterization of multivariate dependence at multiple spatio-temporal scales is critical to understanding climate system dynamics and improving predictive ability from models and data. However, dependence structures in climate are complex due to nonlinear dynamical generating processes, long-range spatial and long-memory temporal relationships, as well as low-frequency variability. Here we utilize complex networks to explore dependence in climate data. Specifically, networks constructed from reanalysis-based atmospheric variables over oceans and partitioned with community detection methods demonstrate the potential to capture regional and global dependence structures within and among climate variables. Proximity-based dependence as well as long-range spatial relationships are examined along with their evolution over time, yielding new insights on ocean meteorology. The tools are implicitly validated by confirming conceptual understanding about aggregate correlations and teleconnections. Our results also suggest a close similarity of observed dependence patterns in relative humidity and horizontal wind speed over oceans. In addition, updraft velocity, which relates to convective activity over the oceans, exhibits short spatiotemporal decorrelation scales but long-range dependence over time. The multivariate and multi-scale dependence patterns broadly persist over multiple time windows. Our findings motivate further investigations of dependence structures among observations, reanalysis and model-simulated data to enhance process understanding, assess model reliability and improve regional climate predictions.