Data-driven dimensionality reduction and causal inference for spatiotemporal climate fields

Fabrizio Falasca, Pavel Perezhogin, Laure Zanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We propose a data-driven framework to describe spatiotemporal climate variability in terms of a few entities and their causal linkages. Given a high-dimensional climate field, the methodology first reduces its dimensionality into a set of regionally constrained patterns. Causal relations among such patterns are then inferred in the interventional sense through the fluctuation-response formalism. To distinguish between true and spurious responses, we propose an analytical null model for the fluctuation-dissipation relation, therefore allowing us for uncertainty estimation at a given confidence level. We showcase the methodology on the sea surface temperature field from a state-of-the-art climate model. The usefulness of the proposed framework for spatiotemporal climate data is demonstrated in several ways. First, we focus on the correct identification of known causal relations across tropical basins. Second, we show how the methodology allows us to visualize the cumulative response of the whole system to climate variability in a few selected regions. Finally, each pattern is ranked in terms of its causal strength, quantifying its relative ability to influence the system's dynamics. We argue that the methodology allows us to explore and characterize causal relations in spatiotemporal fields in a rigorous and interpretable way.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number044202
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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