Co-existing climate attractors in a coupled aquaplanet

  • M. BrunettiEmail author
  • J. Kasparian
  • C. Vérard


The first step in exploring the properties of dynamical systems like the Earth climate is to identify the different phase space regions where the trajectories asymptotically evolve, called ‘attractors’. In a given system, multiple attractors can co-exist under the effect of the same forcing. At the boundaries of their basins of attraction, small changes produce large effects. Therefore, they are key regions for understanding the system response to perturbations. Here we prove the existence of up to five attractors in a simplified climate system where the planet is entirely covered by the ocean (aquaplanet). These attractors range from a snowball to a hot state without sea ice, and their exact number depends on the details of the coupled atmosphere–ocean–sea ice configuration. We characterise each attractor by describing the associated climate feedbacks, by using the principal component analysis, and by measuring quantities borrowed from the study of dynamical systems, namely instantaneous dimension and persistence.


Coupled aquaplanet Attractors GCM Complexity 



We acknowledge the financial support from the Swiss National Science Foundation (Sinergia Project CRSII5_180253). The computations were performed at University of Geneva on the Baobab and Climdal3 clusters. We are grateful to David Nagy, Carmelo E. Mileto and Enzo Putti-Garcia for running some of the simulations. We acknowledge an anonymous reviewer and Valerio Lucarini for helpful comments and suggestions. M. B. thanks Martin Beniston for inspiring discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Environmental Sciences and Group of Applied PhysicsUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Section of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

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