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The Principle of Energetic Consistency

By Stephen E. Cohn


A basic result in estimation theory is that the minimum variance estimate of the dynamical state, given the observations, is the conditional mean estimate. This result holds independently of the specifics of any dynamical or observation nonlinearity or stochasticity, requiring only that the probability density function of the state, conditioned on the observations, has two moments. For nonlinear dynamics that conserve a total energy, this general result implies the principle of energetic consistency: if the dynamical variables are taken to be the natural energy variables, then the sum of the total energy of the conditional mean and the trace of the conditional covariance matrix (the total variance) is constant between observations. Ensemble Kalman filtering methods are designed to approximate the evolution of the conditional mean and covariance matrix. For them the principle of energetic consistency holds independently of ensemble size, even with covariance localization. However, full Kalman filter experiments with advection dynamics have shown that a small amount of numerical dissipation can cause a large, state-dependent loss of total variance, to the detriment of filter performance. The principle of energetic consistency offers a simple way to test whether this spurious loss of variance limits ensemble filter performance in full-blown applications. The classical second-moment closure (third-moment discard) equations also satisfy the principle of energetic consistency, independently of the rank of the conditional covariance matrix. Low-rank approximation of these equations offers an energetically consistent, computationally viable alternative to ensemble filtering. Current formulations of long-window, weak-constraint, four-dimensional variational methods are designed to approximate the conditional mode rather than the conditional mean. Thus they neglect the nonlinear bias term in the second-moment closure equation for the conditional mean. The principle of energetic consistency implies that, to precisely the extent that growing modes are important in data assimilation, this term is also important

Topics: Mathematical and Computer Sciences (General)
Year: 2009
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