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Mean dynamic topography: intercomparisons and errors

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Rory Bingham


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Knowledge of the ocean dynamic topography, defined as the height of the sea surface above its rest-state (the geoid), would allow oceanographers to study the absolute circulation of the ocean and determine the associated geostrophic surface currents that help to regulate the Earth's climate. Here a novel approach to computing a mean dynamic topography (MDT), together with an error field, is presented for the northern North Atlantic. The method uses an ensemble of MDTs, each of which has been produced by the assimilation of hydrographic data into a numerical ocean model, to form a composite MDT, and uses the spread within the ensemble as a measure of the error on this MDT. The r.m.s. error for the composite MDT is 3.2cm, and for the associated geostrophic currents the r.m.s. error is 2.5cms−1. Taylor diagrams are used to compare the composite MDT with several MDTs produced by a variety of alternative methods. Of these, the composite MDT is found to agree remarkably well with an MDT based on the GRACE geoid GGM01C. It is shown how the composite MDT and its error field are useful validation products against which other MDTs and their error fields can be compared.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bingham RJ, Haines K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences

Year: 2006

Volume: 364

Issue: 1841

Pages: 903-916

ISSN (print): 1364-5021

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2946

Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing


DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2006.1745


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