Preprint Article Version 2 This version is not peer-reviewed

An Alternative to PCA for Estimating Dominant Patterns of Climate Variability and Extremes, with Application to US Rainfall

Version 1 : Received: 4 February 2020 / Approved: 6 February 2020 / Online: 6 February 2020 (02:35:50 CET)
Version 2 : Received: 10 February 2020 / Approved: 11 February 2020 / Online: 11 February 2020 (16:10:09 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Jewson, S. An Alternative to PCA for Estimating Dominant Patterns of Climate Variability and Extremes, with Application to U.S. and China Seasonal Rainfall. Atmosphere 2020, 11, 354. Jewson, S. An Alternative to PCA for Estimating Dominant Patterns of Climate Variability and Extremes, with Application to U.S. and China Seasonal Rainfall. Atmosphere 2020, 11, 354.

Journal reference: Atmosphere 2020, 11
DOI: 10.3390/atmos11040354

Abstract

Floods and droughts are driven, in part, by spatial patterns of extreme rainfall. Heat waves are driven by spatial patterns of extreme temperature. It is therefore of interest to design statistical methodologies that allow the identification of likely patterns of extreme rain or temperature from observed historical data. The standard work-horse for identifying patterns of climate variability in historical data is Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and its variants. But PCA optimizes for variance not spatial extremes, and so there is no particular reason why the first PCA spatial pattern should identify, or even approximate, the types of patterns that may drive these phenomena, even if the linear assumptions underlying PCA are correct. We present an alternative pattern identification algorithm that makes the same linear assumptions as PCA, but which can be used to explicitly optimize for spatial extremes. We call the method Directional Component Analysis (DCA), since it involves introducing a preferred direction, or metric, such as `sum of all points in the spatial field'. We compare the first PCA and DCA spatial patterns for US rainfall anomalies on a 6 month timescale, using the sum metric for the definition of DCA in order to focus on total rainfall anomaly over the domain, and find that they are somewhat different. The definitions of PCA and DCA result in the first PCA spatial pattern having the larger explained variance of the two patterns, while the first DCA spatial pattern, when scaled appropriately, has a higher likelihood and greater total rainfall anomaly, and indeed is the pattern with the highest total rainfall anomaly for any given likelihood. In combination these two patterns yield more insight into rainfall variability and extremes than either pattern on its own.

Subject Areas

principal component analysis; PCA; directional component analysis; DCA; empirical orthogonal functions; extremes; US rainfall

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 11 February 2020
Commenter: Stephen Jewson
Commenter's Conflict of Interests: Author
Comment: Clearer explanations throughout.
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