Detection of bifurcations in noisy coupled systems from multiple time series

Chaos. 2015 Mar;25(3):036407. doi: 10.1063/1.4908603.


We generalize a method of detecting an approaching bifurcation in a time series of a noisy system from the special case of one dynamical variable to multiple dynamical variables. For a system described by a stochastic differential equation consisting of an autonomous deterministic part with one dynamical variable and an additive white noise term, small perturbations away from the system's fixed point will decay slower the closer the system is to a bifurcation. This phenomenon is known as critical slowing down and all such systems exhibit this decay-type behaviour. However, when the deterministic part has multiple coupled dynamical variables, the possible dynamics can be much richer, exhibiting oscillatory and chaotic behaviour. In our generalization to the multi-variable case, we find additional indicators to decay rate, such as frequency of oscillation. In the case of approaching a homoclinic bifurcation, there is no change in decay rate but there is a decrease in frequency of oscillations. The expanded method therefore adds extra tools to help detect and classify approaching bifurcations given multiple time series, where the underlying dynamics are not fully known. Our generalisation also allows bifurcation detection to be applied spatially if one treats each spatial location as a new dynamical variable. One may then determine the unstable spatial mode(s). This is also something that has not been possible with the single variable method. The method is applicable to any set of time series regardless of its origin, but may be particularly useful when anticipating abrupt changes in the multi-dimensional climate system.