Stationarity: Wanted Dead or Alive?


  • Paper No. JAWRA-10-0062-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA).



Lins, Harry F. and Timothy A. Cohn, 2011. Stationarity: Wanted Dead or Alive? Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 47(3):475-480. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00542.x

Abstract:  Aligning engineering practice with natural process behavior would appear, on its face, to be a prudent and reasonable course of action. However, if we do not understand the long-term characteristics of hydroclimatic processes, how does one find the prudent and reasonable course needed for water management? We consider this question in light of three aspects of existing and unresolved issues affecting hydroclimatic variability and statistical inference: Hurst-Kolmogorov phenomena; the complications long-term persistence introduces with respect to statistical understanding; and the dependence of process understanding on arbitrary sampling choices. These problems are not easily addressed. In such circumstances, humility may be more important than physics; a simple model with well-understood flaws may be preferable to a sophisticated model whose correspondence to reality is uncertain.