Del operator

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del operator

The operator (written ) is used to transform a scalar field into the ascendent (the negative of the gradient) of that field.

In Cartesian coordinates the three-dimensional del operator is
ams2001glos-De16
and the horizontal component is
ams2001glos-De17
Expressions for in various systems of curvilinear coordinates may be found in any textbook of vector analysis. In meteorology it is often convenient to use a thermodynamic function of state, such as pressure or potential temperature, as the vertical coordinate. If the chosen function is σ, then
ams2001glos-De18
where differentiation with respect to x and y is understood as carried out on surfaces of constant σ (the subscript usually being omitted). The horizontal component is now
ams2001glos-De19
If the quasi-hydrostatic approximation is justified, as in most meteorological contexts, pressure is a useful coordinate, and
ams2001glos-De20_revised2
where g is the acceleration of gravity and ρ is the density. Here
ams2001glos-De21
with differentiation carried out in isobaric surfaces, and z is the horizontal gradient operator in Cartesian-altitude coordinates.

Term updated 8 March 2017.

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