## Understanding the distinctively skewed and heavy tailed character of atmospheric and oceanic probability distributions

The probability distributions of large-scale atmospheric and oceanic variables are generally skewed and heavy-tailed. We argue that their distinctive departures from Gaussianity arise fundamentally from the fact that in a quadratically nonlinear system with a quadratic invariant, the coupling coefficients between system components are not constant but depend linearly on the system state in a distinctive way. In particular, the skewness arises from a tendency of the system trajectory to linger near states of weak coupling. We show that the salient features of the observed non-Gaussianity can be captured in the simplest such nonlinear 2-component system. If the system ismore »