Uncertainty, entropy, scaling and hydrological stochastics, 1, Marginal distributional properties of hydrological processes and state scaling

D. Koutsoyiannis, Uncertainty, entropy, scaling and hydrological stochastics, 1, Marginal distributional properties of hydrological processes and state scaling, Hydrological Sciences Journal, 50 (3), 381–404, doi:10.1623/hysj.50.3.381.65031, 2005.



The well-established physical and mathematical principle of maximum entropy (ME), is used to explain the distributional and autocorrelation properties of hydrological processes, including the scaling behaviour both in state and in time. In this context, maximum entropy is interpreted as maximum uncertainty. The conditions used for the maximization of entropy are as simple as possible, i.e. that hydrological processes are non-negative with specified coefficients of variation (CV) and lag one autocorrelation. In this first part of the study, the marginal distributional properties of hydrological variables and the state scaling behaviour are investigated. Application of the ME principle under these very simple conditions results in the truncated normal distribution for small values of CV and in a nonexponential type (Pareto) distribution for high values of CV. In addition, the normal and the exponential distributions appear as limiting cases of these two distributions. Testing of these theoretical results with numerous hydrological data sets on several scales validates the applicability of the ME principle, thus emphasizing the dominance of uncertainty in hydrological processes. Both theoretical and empirical results show that the state scaling is only an approximation for the high return periods, which is merely valid when processes have high variation on small time scales. In other cases the normal distributional behaviour, which does not have state scaling properties, is a more appropriate approximation. Interestingly however, as discussed in the second part of the study, the normal distribution combined with positive autocorrelation of a process, results in time scaling behaviour due to the ME principle.

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Our works referenced by this work:

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Tagged under: Entropy, Extremes, Stochastics, Uncertainty