Modeling complex systems in the geosciences



Many geophysical phenomena can be described as complex systems, involving phenomena such as extreme or “wild” events that often do not follow the Gaussian distribution that would be expected if the events were simply random and uncorrelated. For instance, some geophysical phenomena like earthquakes show a much higher occurrence of relatively large values than would a Gaussian distribution and so are examples of the “Noah effect” (named by Benoit Mandelbrot for the exceptionally heavy rain in the biblical flood). Other geophysical phenomena are examples of the “Joseph effect,” in which a state is especially persistent, such as a spell of multiple consecutive hot days (heat waves) or several dry summers in a row. The Joseph effect was named after the biblical story in which Joseph's dream of seven fat cows and seven thin ones predicted 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of drought.