Chaos as an intermittently forced linear system
Understanding the interplay of order and disorder in chaos is a central challenge in modern quantitative science. Approximate linear representations of nonlinear dynamics have long been sought, driving considerable interest in Koopman theory. We present a universal, data-driven decomposition of chaos as an intermittently forced linear system. This work combines delay embedding and Koopman theory to decompose chaotic dynamics into a linear model in the leading delay coordinates with forcing by low-energy delay coordinates; this is called the Hankel alternative view of Koopman (HAVOK) analysis. This analysis is applied to the Lorenz system and real-world examples including Earth’s magnetic field reversal and measles outbreaks. In each case, forcing statistics are non-Gaussian, with long tails corresponding to rare intermittent forcing that precedes switching and bursting phenomena. The forcing activity demarcates coherent phase space regions where the dynamics are approximately linear from those that are strongly nonlinear.
The regression model obtained for the Lorenz system is sparse, having a dominant off-diagonal structure. This HAVOK model is highly structured, with skew symmetric entries that are nearly integer multiples of five; this fascinating structure is explored more in Supplementary Note 4