Identification of jets and mixing barriers from sea level and vorticity measurements using simple statistics

Hughes, Chris W.; Thompson, Andrew F; Wilson, Chris. 2010 Identification of jets and mixing barriers from sea level and vorticity measurements using simple statistics. Ocean Modelling, 32 (1-2). 44-57. 10.1016/j.ocemod.2009.10.004

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The probability density functions (PDFs) of sea level and geostrophic relative vorticity are examined using satellite altimeter data. It is shown that departures from a Gaussian distribution can generally be represented by two functions, and that the spatial distribution of these two functions is closely linked to the skewness and kurtosis of the PDF. The patterns indicate that strong jets tend to be identied by a zero contour in skewness coinciding with a low value of kurtosis. A simple model of the statistics of a meandering frontal region is presented which reproduces these features. Comparisons with mean currents and sea surface temperature gradients confirm the identification of these features as jets, and confirm the existence of several Southern Ocean jets unresolved by drifter data. Diagnostics from a range of idealized eddying model simulations show that there is a strong, simple relationship between kurtosis of potential vorticity and effective diffusivity. This suggests that kurtosis may provide a simple method of mapping mixing barriers in the ocean.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.ocemod.2009.10.004
Programmes: Oceans 2025 > Climate, ocean circulation and sea level
Additional Keywords: skewness, kurtosis, sea level, vorticity
NORA Subject Terms: Marine Sciences
Meteorology and Climatology
Date made live: 28 Sep 2009 12:58 +0 (UTC)

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