We illustrate relationships between classical kernel-based dimensionality reduction techniques and eigendecompositions of empirical estimates of reproducing kernel Hilbert space operators associated with dynamical systems. In particular, we show that kernel canonical correlation analysis (CCA) can be interpreted in terms of kernel transfer operators and that it can be obtained by optimizing the variational approach for Markov processes score. As a result, we show that coherent sets of particle trajectories can be computed by kernel CCA. We demonstrate the efficiency of this approach with several examples, namely, the well-known Bickley jet, ocean drifter data, and a molecular dynamics problem with a time-dependent potential. Finally, we propose a straightforward generalization of dynamic mode decomposition called coherent mode decomposition. Our results provide a generic machine learning approach to the computation of coherent sets with an objective score that can be used for cross-validation and the comparison of different methods.

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