Risk Analysis in the Earth Sciences
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Risk Analysis in the Earth Sciences

A Lab Manual with Exercises in R

About the Book

Update: Version 1.2 has been released as of 13 June 2016!  This version includes a table of contents and continuous page numbers, as well as corrections to various minor issues.  

Greenhouse gas emissions have caused considerable changes in climate, including increased surface air temperatures and rising sea levels.  Rising sea levels increase the risks of flooding for people living near the world's coastlines.  Managing such risks requires an understanding of many fields, including Earth science, statistics, and economics.  At the same time, the free, open-source programming environment R is growing in popularity among statisticians and scientists due to its flexibility and graphics capabilities, as well as its large collection of existing software libraries.  

This e-textbook presents a series of laboratory exercises in R that teach the Earth science and statistical concepts needed for assessing climate-related risks.  These exercises are intended for upper-level undergraduates, beginning graduate students, and professionals in other areas who wish to gain insight into academic climate risk analysis.  

The R scripts for this book are available from www.scrimhub.org/raes.  The book's source files are stored in a Github repository at https://github.com/scrim-network/raes.  

We’d like to make Risk Analysis in the Earth Sciences as useful as possible. If you have a comment about the book or a question about one of the exercises, please post an issue to the Github repository mentioned above. 

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation through the Network for Sustainable Climate Risk Management (SCRiM) under NSF cooperative agreement GEO-1240507. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Other support was provided by the Center for Climate Risk Management and the Rock Ethics Institute.

About the Editors

Patrick Applegate
Patrick Applegate

Patrick Applegate is a Scientific Programmer with the SCRiM (Sustainable Climate Risk Management) network, hosted by the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. In this role, Patrick helps researchers do the computing-related parts of their work more effectively. In particular, Patrick writes new code in support of ongoing projects (especially in the R programming language), curates and documents existing code and data sets, and helps research students learn to write code.

Patrick earned his Ph. D. in Geosciences at Penn State and is first author or co-author of 20 peer-reviewed scientific papers. His research treats topics including ice sheets and their contributions to sea level rise, methods for estimating the ages of glacial deposits, and the application of statistical methods to problems in the geosciences.

He previously worked as a postdoc in the Bolin Centre for Climate Research at Stockholm University in Sweden and as a postdoc and Research Associate at Penn State’s main campus. He has also taught college-level courses in geology, geography, and statistics at SUNY-Geneseo and Penn State DuBois.

Patrick recently completed Penn State World Campus’ Certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program, and is working toward the Data Science certificate offered by Johns Hopkins University through Coursera.

Klaus Keller
Klaus Keller

Klaus Keller is a Professor of Geosciences at Penn State, with an adjunct appointment as a Professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. At Penn State, Keller directs the Center for Climate Risk Management as well as the research network for Sustainable Climate Risk Management (http://scrimhub.org/). Before joining Penn State, he worked as a research scientist and lecturer at Princeton University and as an engineer in Germany. Professor Keller graduated from Princeton with a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering. He received master’s degrees from M.I.T. and Princeton as well as an engineer’s degree from the Technische Universität Berlin. His research addresses two interrelated questions. First, how can we mechanistically understand past and potentially predict future changes in the climate system? Second, how can we use this information to design sustainable, scientifically sound, technologically feasible, economically efficient, and ethically defensible climate risk management strategies? He analyzes these questions by mission-oriented basic research covering a wide range of disciplines such as Earth system science, economics, engineering, philosophy, decision science, and statistics. Klaus’ e-mail address is klaus@psu.edu, and his Web site is at http://www3.geosc.psu.edu/~kzk10/.

About the Contributors

Alexander Bakker
Alexander Bakker

Alexander Bakker presently works at Rijkswaterstaat in the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment in the Netherlands. He was previously a postdoctoral scholar in climate and flood risk management at the Pennsylvania State University. He received a Master in Civil Engineering from the Delft University of Technology and obtained a PhD in Regional climate change scenarios at VU University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on uncertainty quantification and framing in sea level projections and flood risk management.

Gregory Garner
Gregory Garner

Gregory Garner is presently an Associate Research Scholar at Princeton University. He earned a PhD from the Meteorology Department at the Pennsylvania State University while studying ways of improving the skill and value of information provided by air quality forecasts in Baltimore, MD and surrounding cities. He now focuses his research efforts on robust decision-making, integrated assessment modeling, statistical data analysis, and coupled ethical-epistemic issues in climate change research.

Richard Alley
Richard Alley

Richard Alley is Evan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences and Associate of the Earth and Environ- mental Systems Institute at Penn State, as well as co-director of the Penn State Ice and Climate Exploration center. His academic degrees are in geology, with the PhD from the University of Wisconsin, and MSc and BSc from the Ohio State University. His research addresses the climate history in ice cores, the physics and stability of ice sheets affecting sea-level change, and the influence of glaciers on the land surface. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society. Richard’s e-mail address is rba6@psu.edu.

Ryan Sriver
Ryan Sriver

Ryan Sriver is an Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign (UIUC). Prior to joining UIUC in the fall of 2012, he worked as a research associate in Penn State’s Department of Geosciences and as a NOAA Climate and Global Change postdoctoral fellow in Penn State’s Department of Meteorology. He graduated from Purdue University with a PhD in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. His research seeks to develop a deeper understanding about the physical processes influencing variability within Earth’s climate system, and to quantify climate change uncertainties relevant to adaptation planning and decision-making. Ryan’s e-mail address is rsriver@illinois.edu, and his Web site is at https://www.atmos.illinois.edu/~rsriver/index.html.

Table of Contents


Contributor Bios



Exercise #0: Learning the basics of R

Exercise #1: Downloading and plotting time series data

Exercise #2: Normal distributions and the Galton board

Exercise #3: Other probability distributions and random sampling

Exercise #4: What is the economically “optimal” height of flood protection structures?: The Van Dantzig (1956) example

Exercise #5: Fitting a second-order polynomial to sea-level data

Exercise #6: Coin flipping and the bootstrap

Exercise #7: Performing a simple bootstrap with the sea level data

Exercise #8: Climate policy and the DICE model


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