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Chaos. 2002 Jun;12(2):300-309.

Successive bifurcations in a simple model of atmospheric zonal-flow vacillation.

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Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095-1565.


Low-frequency variability of the atmospheric flow in the Southern Hemisphere is dominated by irregular changes in the latitude and intensity of the mid-latitude eastward jet about its climatological mean state. This phenomenon, known as atmospheric zonal-flow vacillation, is characterized by the existence of two persistent states of the zonal (i.e., east-west oriented) jet and irregular transitions between them. Nonlinear interactions between the mean flow and the waves play a key role in the dynamics of this vacillation. In the present study, we develop a low-order, deterministic model for the nonlinear dynamics of atmospheric zonal-flow vacillation. Multiple equilibria arise in this model's zonal-mean flow, that is, in the longitudinal flow averaged along a given latitude circle. These equilibria bear a strong resemblance to the two persistent flow regimes found in Southern Hemisphere observations. The two equilibrium states are maintained by wave forcing against surface drag, as in the observations. Successive bifurcations to periodic and chaotic zonal-mean flow regimes occur as the model's dissipation parameter is reduced.


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