VANISHING POINT

I’ve been working on and off on scale linkage problems for more than 30 years. The most recent effort, Vanishing Point: Scale Independence in Geomorphological Hierarchies, has just been published.

The abstract is below:

Scale linkage problems in geosciences are often associated with a hierarchy of components. Both dynamical systems perspectives and intuition suggest that processes or relationships operating at fundamentally different scales are independent with respect to influences on system dynamics. But how far apart is “fundamentally different”—that is, what is the “vanishing point” at which scales are no longer interdependent? And how do we reconcile that with the idea (again, supported by both theory and intuition) that we can work our way along scale hierarchies from microscale to planetary (and vice-versa)? Graph and network theory are employed here to address these questions.  Analysis of two archetypal hierarchical networks shows low algebraic connectivity, indicating low levels of inferential synchronization. This explains the apparent paradox between scale independence and hierarchical linkages. Incorporating more hierarchical levels results in an increase in complexity or entropy of the network as a whole, but at a nonlinear rate. Complexity increases as a power aof the number of levels in the hierarchy, with aand usually < 0.6. However, algebraic connectivity decreases at a more rapid rate. Thus, the ability to infer one part of the hierarchical network from other level decays rapidly as more levels are added. Relatedness among system components decreases with differences in scale or resolution, analogous to distance decay in the spatial domain. These findings suggest a strategy of identifying and focusing on the most important or interesting scale levels, rather than attempting to identify the smallest or largest scale levels and work top-down or bottom-up from there. Examples are given from soil geomorphology and karst flow networks.

Keywords: scale linkage; scale hierarchy; graph theory; soil geomorphology, fluviokarst

REFERENCE: Phillips, J.D., 2016. Vanishing point: scale independence in geomorphic hierarchies. Geomorphology 266: 66-74.

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