Ensemble Kalman filters for dynamical systems with unresolved turbulence

Ian Grooms, Yoonsang Lee, Andrew J. Majda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ensemble Kalman filters are developed for turbulent dynamical systems where the forecast model does not resolve all the active scales of motion. Coarse-resolution models are intended to predict the large-scale part of the true dynamics, but observations invariably include contributions from both the resolved large scales and the unresolved small scales. The error due to the contribution of unresolved scales to the observations, called 'representation' or 'representativeness' error, is often included as part of the observation error, in addition to the raw measurement error, when estimating the large-scale part of the system. It is here shown how stochastic superparameterization (a multiscale method for subgridscale parameterization) can be used to provide estimates of the statistics of the unresolved scales. In addition, a new framework is developed wherein small-scale statistics can be used to estimate both the resolved and unresolved components of the solution.The one-dimensional test problem from dispersive wave turbulence used here is computationally tractable yet is particularly difficult for filtering because of the non-Gaussian extreme event statistics and substantial small scale turbulence: a shallow energy spectrum proportional to k -5/6 (where k is the wavenumber) results in two-thirds of the climatological variance being carried by the unresolved small scales. Because the unresolved scales contain so much energy, filters that ignore the representation error fail utterly to provide meaningful estimates of the system state. Inclusion of a time-independent climatological estimate of the representation error in a standard framework leads to inaccurate estimates of the large-scale part of the signal; accurate estimates of the large scales are only achieved by using stochastic superparameterization to provide evolving, large-scale dependent predictions of the small-scale statistics. Again, because the unresolved scales contain so much energy, even an accurate estimate of the large-scale part of the system does not provide an accurate estimate of the true state. By providing simultaneous estimates of both the large- and small-scale parts of the solution, the new framework is able to provide accurate estimates of the true system state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-452
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
StatePublished - Sep 15 2014


  • Ensemble Kalman filter
  • Representation error
  • Superparameterization
  • Turbulent dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Numerical Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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