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Predicting Critical Transitions in ENSO Models. Part I: Methodology and Simple Models with Memory

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A new empirical approach is proposed for predicting critical transitions in the climate system based on a time series alone. This approach relies on nonlinear stochastic modeling of the system's time-dependent evolution operator by the analysis of observed behavior. Empirical models that take the form of a discrete random dynamical system are constructed using artificial neural networks; these models include statedependent stochastic components. To demonstrate the usefulness of such models in predicting critical climate transitions, they are applied here to time series generated by a number of delay-differential equation (DDE) models of sea surface temperature anomalies. These DDE models take into account the main conceptual elements responsible for the El Niño-Southern Oscillation phenomenon. The DDE models used here have been modified to include slow trends in the control parameters in such a way that critical transitions occur beyond the learning interval in the time series. Numerical results suggest that the empirical models proposed herein are able to forecast sequences of critical transitions that manifest themselves in future abrupt changes of the climate system's statistics.

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