Use of forecasting signatures to help distinguish periodicity, randomness, and chaos in ripples and other spatial patterns

Chaos. 1992 Oct;2(4):525-535. doi: 10.1063/1.165894.


Forecasting of one-dimensional time series previously has been used to help distinguish periodicity, chaos, and noise. This paper presents two-dimensional generalizations for making such distinctions for spatial patterns. The techniques are evaluated using synthetic spatial patterns and then are applied to a natural example: ripples formed in sand by blowing wind. Tests with the synthetic patterns demonstrate that the forecasting techniques can be applied to two-dimensional spatial patterns, with the same utility and limitations as when applied to one-dimensional time series. One limitation is that some combinations of periodicity and randomness exhibit forecasting signatures that mimic those of chaos. For example, sine waves distorted with correlated phase noise have forecasting errors that increase with forecasting distance, errors that are minimized using nonlinear models at moderate embedding dimensions, and forecasting properties that differ significantly between the original and surrogates. Ripples formed in sand by flowing air or water typically vary in geometry from one to another, even when formed in a flow that is uniform on a large scale; each ripple modifies the local flow or sand-transport field, thereby influencing the geometry of the next ripple downcurrent. Spatial forecasting was used to evaluate the hypothesis that such a deterministic process-rather than randomness or quasiperiodicity-is responsible for the variation between successive ripples. This hypothesis is supported by a forecasting error that increases with forecasting distance, a greater accuracy of nonlinear relative to linear models, and significant differences between forecasts made with the original ripples and those made with surrogate patterns. Forecasting signatures cannot be used to distinguish ripple geometry from sine waves with correlated phase noise, but this kind of structure can be ruled out by two geometric properties of the ripples: Successive ripples are highly correlated in wavelength, and ripple crests display dislocations such as branchings and mergers.