Ted Shepherd

(Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, UK)

"Bringing physical reasoning into statistical practice in climate-change science"

What meteo colloquium
When Jan 12, 2022
from 03:30 pm to 04:30 pm
Contact Name Sukyoung Lee
Contact email
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This talk is presented as a Zoom Webinar and requires a passcode. For anyone outside the department; If you would like to attend, email Lan Lewis, lan5340@psu.edu

Professor Theodore Shepherd


The treatment of uncertainty in climate-change science is dominated by the far-reaching influence of the ‘frequentist’ tradition in statistics, which interprets uncertainty in terms of sampling statistics and emphasizes p-values and statistical significance. This is the normative standard in the journals where most climate-change science is published. Yet a sampling distribution is not always meaningful (there is only one planet Earth). Moreover, scientific statements about climate change are hypotheses, and the frequentist tradition has no way of expressing the uncertainty of a hypothesis. As a result, in climate-change science, there is generally a disconnect between physical reasoning and statistical practice. In this talk, I explain how the frequentist statistical methods used in climate-change science can be embedded within the more general framework of probability theory, which is based on very simple logical principles. In this way, the physical reasoning represented in scientific hypotheses, which underpins climate-change science, can be brought into statistical practice in a transparent and logically rigorous way. The principles are illustrated through three examples of controversial scientific topics: the alleged global warming hiatus, Arctic-midlatitude linkages, and extreme event attribution. These examples show how the principles can be applied, in order to develop better scientific practice.