Debates—Does Information Theory Provide a New Paradigm for Earth Science? Causality, Interaction, and Feedback

Allison E. Goodwell, Peishi Jiang, Benjamin L. Ruddell, Praveen Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

Abstract

The concept of causal interactions between components is an integral part of hydrology and Earth system sciences. Modelers, decision makers, scientists, and other water resources stakeholders all utilize some notion of cause-and-effect to understand processes, make decisions, and infer how systems react to change. However, there are different perspectives on the meaning of causality in complex systems and, further, different frameworks and methodologies with which to detect causal interactions. We propose here that information theory (IT) provides a compelling framework for the detection of causality and discuss approaches for several levels of analyses that capture interactions that range from pairwise to multivariate in nature. We illustrate these types of analyses with an example based on weather station time series variables, in which variables may interact pairwise or jointly and on short to long time scales. In general, many unsolved or even unanticipated questions in the hydrologic sciences could benefit from this perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019WR024940
JournalWater Resources Research
Volume56
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

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