Paper Published: Does Information Theory Provide a New Paradigm for Earth Science?

News / Friday, March 6th, 2020

Kumar, P., & Gupta, H. V. (2020). Debates—Does Information Theory provide a new paradigm for Earth Science?. Water Resources Research, 56, e2019WR026398.


The basis for all knowledge is “information” that we compile about the world, expressed through models that support understanding, prediction, and decision making. This overview paper provides a contextual basis for the four papers that make up the “debate series” compiled under the above title. We briefly introduce Information Theory, discuss how “information” can be considered to be both a “physical” quantity and a “probabilistic” basis for representing incompleteness in knowledge, discuss the core motivation for this debate series, and briefly summarize the major arguments advanced by each of the debate papers. Our purpose is to facilitate an understanding of how these papers are related and how they approach the debate series question from different perspectives, while pointing to future directions for research. Finally, we invite further discourse and debate to advance the understanding and prediction of natural system dynamics using Information Theory, including the assessment of its limitations and complementarity to existing physics and machine learning approaches. Ultimately, our goal is to press for the development of philosophical and methodological advances that will enable the Earth science community to address some of the compelling unsolved problems in our field.