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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  21 Jul 2020

21 Jul 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Copulas for hydroclimatic applications – A practical note on common misconceptions and pitfalls

Faranak Tootoonchi1, Jan Olaf Haerter2, Olle Räty3, Thomas Grabs1, Mojtaba Sadegh4, and Claudia Teutschbein1 Faranak Tootoonchi et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 2Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 3Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 4Department of Civil Engineering, Boise State University, Boise, USA

Abstract. For most hydroclimatic applications, precipitation and temperature are of particular interest as they strongly affect the water cycle, can easily be measured and are often readily available from many meteorological stations worldwide. To account for precipitation and temperature variability, their co-dependence and their correlation, several multivariate analysis methods have been adopted in the hydroclimatic literature in recent years. In line with the steadily rising number of publications on this topic, the notion of copula-based probability distribution has also attracted tremendous interest to deal with the complexity of compound events in the multidimensional context. A copula is a function that connects a multivariate distribution to its one-dimensional margins, which allows for a joint distribution of random variables with great flexibility for the marginal distribution. However, there seems to be a lack of comprehensive understanding of the fundamental requirements of the copula concept such as the strength and significance of correlation between variables, autocorrelation effects and the choice of representative copula families, which potentially compromises the robustness of projections of future environmental processes and natural hazards. Therefore, by combining a systematic literature review with a specific hydroclimatic case study in Sweden, we illustrate a practical approach to copula-based modeling, which (1) provides end-users with an overview of necessary requirements, statistical assumptions and consequential limitations of copulas, (2) highlights possible pitfalls and misconceptions, and (3) offers a decision support framework for the application of copulas to support researchers and decision makers in addressing climatological hazards and sustainable development, thereby demystifying what is currently an area of great confusion.

Faranak Tootoonchi et al.

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Codes_Copulas for hydroclimatic applications Faranak Tootoonchi

Faranak Tootoonchi et al.


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Latest update: 25 Oct 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The motive behind writing this paper is the growing interest in adopting copulas in hydroclimatic applications. We performed an in-depth copula analysis on a case study in Sweden to show strength, significance, variability and non-stationarity of correlation between precipitation and temperature variables. As our final product, we illustrate a comprehensive decision support framework to support end users in adopting copulas for hydroclimatic applications.
The motive behind writing this paper is the growing interest in adopting copulas in...