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Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  20 May 2020

20 May 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal OS.

Spiciness theory revisited, with new views on neutral density, orthogonality and passiveness

Rémi Tailleux Rémi Tailleux
  • Dept. of Meteorology, University of Reading, Earley Gate, PO Box 243, RG6 6BB Reading, United Kingdom

Abstract. This paper clarifies the theoretical basis for constructing spiciness variables optimal for characterising ocean water masses. Three essential ingredients are identified: 1) a material density variable γ that is as neutral as feasible; 2) a material state function ξ independent of γ, but otherwise arbitrary; 3) an empirically determined function ξr(γ) of γ quantifying the isopycnal mean behaviour of ξ. The key results are: It is the anomaly ξ′ = ξ − ξr(γ), rather than ξ, that is the variable optimally suited for characterising ocean water masses; Ingredient 1) is required, because contrary to what is usually assumed, it is not the property of ξ that determine its dynamical inertness, but the degree of neutrality of γ; Oceanic sections of ξ′ are rather insensitive to the particular choice of ξ; Contrary to what has been usually assumed, it is orthogonality in physical space rather than in thermohaline space that is the relevant property for optimally characterising ocean water masses.

The results are important because: They unify the various ways in which spiciness has been defined and used in the literature; They provide for the first time a rigorous first-principles physical justification for the concept of neutral density.

Rémi Tailleux

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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Because the density of seawater depends on both temperature (T) and salinity (S), it is possible for seawater samples of the same density to have possibly widely different T/S characteristics, ranging from hot and salt (spicy) to fresh and cold (minty). For several decades, oceanographers have been debating about how best to construct a variable for quantifying the spiciness of seawater. This work discusses the relative merits/drawbacks of existing approaches and proposes a new way forward.
Because the density of seawater depends on both temperature (T) and salinity (S), it is possible...