Section: Research Program

Dealing with uncertainties

There are many sources of uncertainties in numerical models. They are due to imperfect external forcing, poorly known parameters, missing physics and discretization errors. Studying these uncertainties and their impact on the simulations is a challenge, mostly because of the high dimensionality and non-linear nature of the systems. To deal with these uncertainties we work on three axes of research, which are linked: sensitivity analysis, parameter estimation and risk assessment. They are based on either stochastic or deterministic methods.

Sensitivity analysis Sensitivity analysis (SA), which links uncertainty in the model inputs to uncertainty in the model outputs, is a powerful tool for model design and validation. First, it can be a pre-stage for parameter estimation (see 3.4), allowing for the selection of the more significant parameters. Second, SA permits understanding and quantifying (possibly non-linear) interactions induced by the different processes defining e.g., realistic ocean atmosphere models. Finally SA allows for validation of models, checking that the estimated sensitivities are consistent with what is expected by the theory. On ocean, atmosphere and coupled systems, only first order deterministic SA are performed, neglecting the initialization process (data assimilation). AIRSEA members and collaborators proposed to use second order information to provide consistent sensitivity measures, but so far it has only been applied to simple academic systems. Metamodels are now commonly used, due to the cost induced by each evaluation of complex numerical models: mostly Gaussian processes, whose probabilistic framework allows for the development of specific adaptive designs, and polynomial chaos not only in the context of intrusive Galerkin approaches but also in a black-box approach. Until recently, global SA was based primarily on a set of engineering practices. New mathematical and methodological developments have led to the numerical computation of Sobol' indices, with confidence intervals assessing for both metamodel and estimation errors. Approaches have also been extended to the case of dependent entries, functional inputs and/or output and stochastic numerical codes. Other types of indices and generalizations of Sobol' indices have also been introduced.

Concerning the stochastic approach to SA we plan to work with parameters that show spatio-temporal dependencies and to continue toward more realistic applications where the input space is of huge dimension with highly correlated components. Sensitivity analysis for dependent inputs also introduces new challenges. In our applicative context, it would seem prudent to carefully learn the spatio-temporal dependences before running a global SA. In the deterministic framework we focus on second order approaches where the sought sensitivities are related to the optimality system rather than to the model; i.e., we consider the whole forecasting system (model plus initialization through data assimilation).

All these methods allow for computing sensitivities and more importantly a posteriori error statistics.

Parameter estimation Advanced parameter estimation methods are barely used in ocean, atmosphere and coupled systems, mostly due to a difficulty of deriving adequate response functions, a lack of knowledge of these methods in the ocean-atmosphere community, and also to the huge associated computing costs. In the presence of strong uncertainties on the model but also on parameter values, simulation and inference are closely associated. Filtering for data assimilation and Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) are two examples of such association.

Stochastic approach can be compared with the deterministic approach, which allows to determine the sensitivity of the flow to parameters and optimize their values relying on data assimilation. This approach is already shown to be capable of selecting a reduced space of the most influent parameters in the local parameter space and to adapt their values in view of correcting errors committed by the numerical approximation. This approach assumes the use of automatic differentiation of the source code with respect to the model parameters, and optimization of the obtained raw code.

AIRSEA assembles all the required expertise to tackle these difficulties. As mentioned previously, the choice of parameterization schemes and their tuning has a significant impact on the result of model simulations. Our research will focus on parameter estimation for parameterized Partial Differential Equations (PDEs) and also for parameterized Stochastic Differential Equations (SDEs). Deterministic approaches are based on optimal control methods and are local in the parameter space (i.e., the result depends on the starting point of the estimation) but thanks to adjoint methods they can cope with a large number of unknowns that can also vary in space and time. Multiscale optimization techniques as described in 7.2 will be one of the tools used. This in turn can be used either to propose a better (and smaller) parameter set or as a criterion for discriminating parameterization schemes. Statistical methods are global in the parameter state but may suffer from the curse of dimensionality. However, the notion of parameter can also be extended to functional parameters. We may consider as parameter a functional entity such as a boundary condition on time, or a probability density function in a stationary regime. For these purposes, non-parametric estimation will also be considered as an alternative.

Risk assessment Risk assessment in the multivariate setting suffers from a lack of consensus on the choice of indicators. Moreover, once the indicators are designed, it still remains to develop estimation procedures, efficient even for high risk levels. Recent developments for the assessment of financial risk have to be considered with caution as methods may differ pertaining to general financial decisions or environmental risk assessment. Modeling and quantifying uncertainties related to extreme events is of central interest in environmental sciences. In relation to our scientific targets, risk assessment is very important in several areas: hydrological extreme events, cyclone intensity, storm surges...Environmental risks most of the time involve several aspects which are often correlated. Moreover, even in the ideal case where the focus is on a single risk source, we have to face the temporal and spatial nature of environmental extreme events. The study of extremes within a spatio-temporal framework remains an emerging field where the development of adapted statistical methods could lead to major progress in terms of geophysical understanding and risk assessment thus coupling data and model information for risk assessment.

Based on the above considerations we aim to answer the following scientific questions: how to measure risk in a multivariate/spatial framework? How to estimate risk in a non stationary context? How to reduce dimension (see 3.3) for a better estimation of spatial risk?

Extreme events are rare, which means there is little data available to make inferences of risk measures. Risk assessment based on observation therefore relies on multivariate extreme value theory. Interacting particle systems for the analysis of rare events is commonly used in the community of computer experiments. An open question is the pertinence of such tools for the evaluation of environmental risk.

Most numerical models are unable to accurately reproduce extreme events. There is therefore a real need to develop efficient assimilation methods for the coupling of numerical models and extreme data.