Articles | Volume 22, issue 6
Research article
21 Dec 2015
Research article |  | 21 Dec 2015

Nonlinear feedback in a six-dimensional Lorenz model: impact of an additional heating term

B.-W. Shen

Abstract. In this study, a six-dimensional Lorenz model (6DLM) is derived, based on a recent study using a five-dimensional (5-D) Lorenz model (LM), in order to examine the impact of an additional mode and its accompanying heating term on solution stability. The new mode added to improve the representation of the streamfunction is referred to as a secondary streamfunction mode, while the two additional modes, which appear in both the 6DLM and 5DLM but not in the original LM, are referred to as secondary temperature modes. Two energy conservation relationships of the 6DLM are first derived in the dissipationless limit. The impact of three additional modes on solution stability is examined by comparing numerical solutions and ensemble Lyapunov exponents of the 6DLM and 5DLM as well as the original LM. For the onset of chaos, the critical value of the normalized Rayleigh number (rc) is determined to be 41.1. The critical value is larger than that in the 3DLM (rc ~ 24.74), but slightly smaller than the one in the 5DLM (rc ~ 42.9). A stability analysis and numerical experiments obtained using generalized LMs, with or without simplifications, suggest the following: (1) negative nonlinear feedback in association with the secondary temperature modes, as first identified using the 5DLM, plays a dominant role in providing feedback for improving the solution's stability of the 6DLM, (2) the additional heating term in association with the secondary streamfunction mode may destabilize the solution, and (3) overall feedback due to the secondary streamfunction mode is much smaller than the feedback due to the secondary temperature modes; therefore, the critical Rayleigh number of the 6DLM is comparable to that of the 5DLM. The 5DLM and 6DLM collectively suggest different roles for small-scale processes (i.e., stabilization vs. destabilization), consistent with the following statement by Lorenz (1972): "If the flap of a butterfly's wings can be instrumental in generating a tornado, it can equally well be instrumental in preventing a tornado." The implications of this and previous work, as well as future work, are also discussed.

Short summary
While the negative nonlinear feedback associated with two new modes in the 5DLM can stabilize solutions, additional resolved heating processes by a third mode in the 6DLM can destabilize solutions. The findings support the view of Lorenz (1972) on the role of small-scale processes: if the flap of a butterfly’s wings can be instrumental in generating a tornado, it can equally well be instrumental in preventing a tornado.