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Gerald R. North, Fanthune J. Moeng, Thomas L. Bell, and Robert F. Cahalan

Abstract

Zonally averaged meteorological fields can have large variances in polar regions due to purely geometrical effects, because fewer statistically independent areas contribute to zonal means near the poles than near the equator. A model of a stochastic field with homogeneous statistics on the sphere is presented as an idealized example of the phenomenon. We suggest a quantitative method for isolating the geometrical effect and use it in examining the variance of the zonally averaged 500 mb geopotential height field.

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Gerald R. North, Thomas L. Bell, Robert F. Cahalan, and Fanthune J. Moeng

Abstract

Empirical Orthogonal Functions (EOF's), eigenvectors of the spatial cross-covariance matrix of a meteorological field, are reviewed with special attention given to the necessary weighting factors for gridded data and the sampling errors incurred when too small a sample is available. The geographical shape of an EOF shows large intersample variability when its associated eigenvalue is “close” to a neighboring one. A rule of thumb indicating when an EOF is likely to be subject to large sampling fluctuations is presented. An explicit example, based on the statistics of the 500 mb geopotential height field, displays large intersample variability in the EOF's for sample sizes of a few hundred independent realizations, a size seldom exceeded by meteorological data sets.

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