Multi-chain Markov chain Monte Carlo methods for computationally expensive models

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 08:00
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Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods are used to infer model parameters from observational data. The parameters are inferred as probability densities, thus capturing estimation error due to sparsity of the data, and the shortcomings of the model. Multiple communicating chains executing the MCMC method have the potential to explore the parameter space better, and conceivably accelerate the convergence to the final distribution.

We present results from tests conducted with the multi-chain method to show how the acceleration occurs i.e., for loose convergence tolerances, the multiple chains do not make much of a difference. The ensemble of chains also seems to have the ability to accelerate the convergence of a few chains that might start from suboptimal starting points. Finally, we show the performance of the chains in the estimation of O(10) parameters using computationally expensive forward models such as the Community Land Model, where the sampling burden is distributed over multiple chains.

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