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Nat Commun. 2019 Jun 14;10(1):2553. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-10105-3.

Inferring causation from time series in Earth system sciences.

Author information

1
German Aerospace Center, Institute of Data Science, Mälzer Str. 3, 07745, Jena, Germany. jakob.runge@dlr.de.
2
Grantham Institute, Imperial College, London, SW7 2AZ, UK. jakob.runge@dlr.de.
3
Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS), Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Fischertwiete 1, 20095, Hamburg, Germany.
4
Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 47, NL-6700 AA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
5
Department of Mathematics, Clarkson Center for Complex Systems Science (C3S2), Clarkson University, 8 Clarkson Ave., Potsdam, NY, 13699-5815, USA.
6
Image Processing Laboratory, Universitat de València, ES-46980, Paterna (València), Spain.
7
Department of Water and Climate Risk, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1087, 1081 HV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
8
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Earth System Analysis, Telegraphenberg A62, 14473, Potsdam, Germany.
9
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA, 92093, USA.
10
Department of Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA.
11
Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, PO Box 100164, 07701, Jena, Germany.
12
Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 5, 2100, København, Denmark.
13
Institute for Informatics, University of Amsterdam, PO Box 94323, 1090 GH, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
14
Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Amsterdam, Oude Turfmarkt 147, 1012, GC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
15
Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Max Planck Ring 4, 72076, Tübingen, Germany.
16
Department of Physics and Department of Computer Science, Clarkson University, 8 Clarkson Ave., Potsdam, NY, 13699-5815, USA.
17
Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092, Zurich, Switzerland.
18
Climate and Environmental Physics, University of Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5, 3012, Bern, Switzerland.
19
Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, 3012, Switzerland.

Abstract

The heart of the scientific enterprise is a rational effort to understand the causes behind the phenomena we observe. In large-scale complex dynamical systems such as the Earth system, real experiments are rarely feasible. However, a rapidly increasing amount of observational and simulated data opens up the use of novel data-driven causal methods beyond the commonly adopted correlation techniques. Here, we give an overview of causal inference frameworks and identify promising generic application cases common in Earth system sciences and beyond. We discuss challenges and initiate the benchmark platform causeme.net to close the gap between method users and developers.

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