Articles | Volume 21, issue 1
31 Jan 2003
 | 31 Jan 2003

Multivariate Empirical Orthogonal Function analysis of the upper thermocline structure of the Mediterranean Sea from observations and model simulations

S. Sparnocchia, N. Pinardi, and E. Demirov

Abstract. Multivariate vertical Empirical Orthogonal Functions (EOF) are calculated for the entire Mediterranean Sea both from observations and model simulations, in order to find the optimal number of vertical modes to represent the upper thermocline vertical structure. For the first time, we show that the large-scale Mediterranean thermohaline vertical structure can be represented by a limited number of vertical multivariate EOFs, and that the "optimal set" can be selected on the basis of general principles. In particular, the EOFs are calculated for the combined temperature and salinity statistics, dividing the Mediterranean Sea into 9 regions and grouping the data seasonally. The criterion used to establish whether a reduced set of EOFs is optimal is based on the analysis of the root mean square residual error between the original data and the profiles reconstructed by the reduced set of EOFs. It was found that the number of EOFs needed to capture the variability contained in the original data changes with geographical region and seasons. In particular, winter data require a smaller number of modes (4–8, depending on the region) than the other seasons (8–9 in summer). Moreover, western Mediterranean regions require more modes than the eastern Mediterranean ones, but this result may depend on the data scarcity in the latter regions. The EOFs computed from the in situ data set are compared to those calculated using data obtained from a model simulation. The main results of this exercise are that the two groups of modes are not strictly comparable but their ability to reproduce observations is the same. Thus, they may be thought of as equivalent sets of basis functions, upon which to project the thermohaline variability of the basin.

Key words. Oceanography: general (water masses) – Oceanography: physical (hydrography; instruments and techniques)