Multivariate normal mixtures provide a flexible method of fitting high-dimensional data. It is shown that their topography, in the sense of their key features as a density, can be analyzed rigorously in lower dimensions by use of a ridgeline manifold that contains all critical points, as well as the ridges of the density. A plot of the elevations on the ridgeline shows the key features of the mixed density. In addition, by use of the ridgeline, we uncover a function that determines the number of modes of the mixed density when there are two components being mixed. A followup analysis then gives a curvature function that can be used to prove a set of modality theorems.
"The topography of multivariate normal mixtures." Ann. Statist. 33 (5) 2042 - 2065, October 2005. https://doi.org/10.1214/009053605000000417