Quantifying the sensitivity of oscillation experiments to the neutrino mass ordering


Determining the type of the neutrino mass ordering (normal versus inverted) is one of the most important open questions in neutrino physics. In this paper we clarify the statistical interpretation of sensitivity calculations for this measurement. We employ standard frequentist methods of hypothesis testing in order to precisely define terms like the median sensitivity of an experiment. We consider a test statistic TT which in a certain limit will be normal distributed. We show that the median sensitivity in this limit is very close to standard sensitivities based on Δχ2\Delta\chi^2 values from a data set without statistical fluctuations, such as widely used in the literature. Furthermore, we perform an explicit Monte Carlo simulation of the INO, JUNO, LBNE, NOvA, and PINGU experiments in order to verify the validity of the Gaussian limit, and provide a comparison of the expected sensitivities for those experiments.Comment: 41 pages, 13 figures. Version accepted for publication in JHEP. The dependence on the atmospheric mixing angle is now explicitly shown also for long baseline experiments. Minor corrections and references adde

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