Guide to Your First Year in the Reed Research Group

I’m finishing up my first year as a MS/PhD student in Reed Research Group and I would like to use this blog post to formally list resources within the blog that I found especially useful and relevant to my  first year of training. We are also at the point where many of the senior students in the group are moving on to new positions, so I would also like to use this blog post to consolidate tips and tricks that I learned from them that will hopefully be helpful to future students as well.

Blog Posts

There are 315 blog posts on this Water Programming Blog. Chances are, if you have a question, it has already been answered in one of these posts. However, when I first joined the group, it was sometimes hard for me to know what I was even supposed to be searching for. Here are some blog posts that I found particularly useful when I started out or ones that I continue to regularly refer to.

Getting Oriented with the Cube

What even is a cluster? I had no idea when I first arrived but this post brought me up to speed.

Understanding the Terminal

  1. Using MobaXterm as a terminal is incredibly intuitive, especially for someone like me who had rarely touched a terminal in undergrad. MobaXterm allows you to drag and drop files from your computer directly into your directory on the Cube. Furthermore, with the MobaXterm graphical SFTP browser you can navigate through your directories similarly to a Windows environment. I found that it was easier to use other terminal environments like Cygwin after I had gotten used to the terminal through MobaXterm. See Dave’s post here.
  2. Once you are oriented with how the terminal works, the best thing to do is practice navigating using Linux commands. Linux commands can also be very helpful for file manipulation and processing. When I first started training, I was much more comfortable opening text files, for example, in Excel, and making the necessary changes. However, very quickly, I was confronted with manipulating hundreds of text files or set files at a time, which forced me to learn Linux commands. After I learned how to properly used these commands, I wished I had started using them a long time ago. You will work much more efficiently if start practicing the Linux commands listed in Bernardo’s blog post.

Using Borg and the MOEA Framework

Most of my second semester was spent reproducing Julie Quinn’s Lake Problem paper, which is when I first started to understand how to use Borg. It took me entirely too long to realize that the commands in Jazmin’s tutorials here and here are completely generalizable for any application requiring the MOEA framework or Borg. Since these tutorials are done so early in training, it is very easy to forget that they may be useful later and applied to problems other than DTLZ. I found myself referring back many times to these posts to remember the commands needed to generate a reference set from multiple seeds and how to execute Borg using the correct flags.

Using GitHub, Bitbucket, and Git commands

I had heard GitHub tossed around by CS majors in undergrad but it never occurred to me that I would be using it one day. Now, I have realized what a great tool it is for code version control. If used correctly, it makes sharing code with collaborators so much more clean and organized. However, before you can “clone” the contents of anyone’s repository to your own computer, you need an SSH key, which was not obvious to me as newbie to both Github and Bitbucket. You also need a different SSH key for every computer that you use. To generate an SSH key, refer to 2) of this post. Then you can add the generated keys in your profile settings on your Github and Bitbucket accounts.

Once you have keys, you can start cloning directories and pushing changes from your local version to the repository that you cloned from using Git commands outlined in this blog post.

Pro Tips

A consolidation of notes that I wrote down from interactions with senior students in the group that have proven to be useful:

  1.  If you can’t get your set files to merge, make sure there is a # sign at the end of each set file.
  2. If a file is too big to view, use the head or tail command to see the first few lines or last lines of a file to get an idea of what the contents of the file look like.
  3. Every time you submit a job, a file with the name of the job script and job number will appear in your directory. If your code crashes and you aren’t sure where to start, this file is a good place to see what might be going on. I was using Borg and couldn’t figure out why it was crashing after just 10 minutes of running because no errors were being returned. When I looked at this file, hundreds of outputs had been printed that I had forgotten to comment out. This had overloaded the system and caused it to crash.
  4. If you want to compile a file or series of files, use the command make. If you have multiple make files in one folder, then you’ll need to use the command make -f . If you get odd errors when using the make command, try make clean first and then recompile.
  5. Most useful Cube commands:qsub to submit a job

    qdel job number if you want to delete a job on the cube

    qsub -I to start an interactive node. If you start an interactive node, you have one node all to yourself. If you want to run something that might take a while but not necessarily warrant submitting a job, then use an interactive node (don’t run anything large on the command line). However, be aware that you won’t be able to use your terminal until your job is done. If you exit out of your terminal, then you will be kicked out of your interactive node.

In retrospect, I see just how much I have learned in just one year of being in the research group. When you start, it can seem like a daunting task. However, it is important to realize that all of the other students in the group were in your position at one point. By making use of all the resources available to you and with time and a lot of practice, you’ll get the hang of it!


Setting Up and Customizing Python Environments using Conda

Typing ‘python’ into your command line launches the default global Python environment (which you can change by changing your path) that includes every package you’ve likely installed since the dawn of man (or since you adopted your machine).

But what happens when you are working between Python 2.7 and Python 3.x due to collaboration, using Python 3.4 because the last time you updated your script was four years ago, collaborating with others and want to ensure reproducibility and compatible environments, or banging your head against the wall because that one Python library installation is throwing up errors (shakes fist at PIL/Pillow)?

Creating Python environments is a straightforward solution to save you headaches down the road.

Python environments are a topic that many of us have feared through the years due to ambiguous definitions filled with waving hands. An environment is simply the domain in which users run software or scripts. With this same train of thought, a python environment is the domain with all of the Python packages are installed where a user (you!) is executing a script (usually interfacing through an IDE or Terminal/Command Prompt).

However, different scripts will work or fail in different environments  avoid having to use all of these packages at once or having to completely reinstall Python, what we want to do is create new and independent Python environments. Applications of these environments include:

  • Have multiple versions of Python (e.g. 2.7 and 3.4 and 3.6) installed on your machine at once that you can easily switch between
  • Work with specific versions of packages and ensure they don’t update for the specific script you’re developing
  • Allow for individuals to install the same, reproducible environment between workstations
  • Create standardized environments for seamless collaboration
  • Use older versions of packages to utilize outdated code

Creating Your First Python Environment

One problem that recent arose in Ithaca was that someone was crunching towards deadlines and could only run PIL (Python Imaging Library) on their home machine and not their desktop on campus due to package installation issues. This individual had the following  packages they needed to install while using Python 2.7.5:

  • PIL
  • matplotlib
  • numpy
  • pandas
  • statsmodels
  • seaborn

To start, let’s first create an environment! To do this, we will be using Conda (install Anaconda for new users or MiniConda for anyone who doesn’t want their default Python environment to be jeopardized. If you want to avoid using Conda, feel free to explore Pipenv). As a quick note on syntax, I will be running everything in Windows 7 and every command I am using can be found on the Conda Cheatsheet. Only slight variations are required for MacOS/Linux.

First, with your Command Prompt open, type the following command to create the environment we will be working in:

conda create --name blog_pil_example python=2.7.5


At this point, a new environment titled blog_pil_example with Python 2.7.5 has been created. Congrats! Don’t forget to take screenshots to add to your new environment’s baby book (or just use the one above if it’s not your first environment).

From here, we need to activate the environment before interacting with it. To see which environments are available, use the following:

conda env list

Now, let’s go ahead and activate the environment that we want (blog_pil_example):

activate blog_pil_example

To leave the environment you’re in, simply use the following command:


(For Linux and MaxOS, put ‘source ‘ prior to these commands)


We can see in the screenshot above that multiple other environments exist, but the selected/activated environment is shown in parentheses. Note that you’re still navigating through the same directories as before, you’re just selecting and running a different version of Python and installed packages when you’re using this environment.

Building Your Python Environment

(Installing Packages)

Now onto the real meat and potatoes: installing the necessary packages. While you can use pip at this point, I’ve found Conda has run into fewer issues over the past year.  (Read into channel prioritization if you’re interested in where package files are being sourced from and how to change this.) As a quick back to basics, we’re going to install one of the desired packages, matplotlib, using Conda (or pip). Using these ensures that the proper versions of the packages for your environment (i.e. the Python version and operating system) are retrieved. At the same time, all dependent packages will also be installed (e.g. numpy). Use the following command when in the environment and confirm you want to install matplotlib:

conda install matplotlib

Note that you can specify a version much like how we specified the python version above for library compatibility issues:

conda install matplotlib=2.2.0

If you wish to remove matplotlib, use the following command:

conda remove matplotlib

If you wish to update a specific package, run:

conda update matplotlib

Or to update all packages:

conda update

Additionally, you can prevent specific packages from updating by creating a pinned file in the environment’s conda-meta directory. Be sure to do this prior to running the command to update all packages! 

After installing all of the packages that were required at the start of this tutorial, let’s look into which packages are actually installed in this environment:

conda list


By only installing the required packages, Conda was kind and installed all of the dependencies at the same time. Now you have a Python environment that you’ve created from scratch and developed into a hopefully productive part of your workflow.

Utilizing Your Python Environment

The simplest way to utilize your newly created python environment is simply run python directly in the Command Prompt above. You can run any script when this environment is activated (shown in the parentheses on the left of the command line) to utilize this setup!

If you want to use this environment in your IDE of choice, you can simply point the interpreter to this new environment. In PyCharm, you can easily create a new Conda Environment when creating a new project, or you can point the interpreter to a previously created environment (instructions here).

Additional Resources

For a good ground-up and more in depth tutorial with visualizations on how Conda works (including directory structure, channel prioritization) that has been a major source of inspiration and knowledge for me, please check out this blog post by Gergely Szerovay.

If you’re looking for a great (and nearly exhaustive) source of Python Packages (both current and previous versions), check out Gohlke’s webpage. To install these packages, download the associated file for your system (32/64 bit and then your operating system) then use pip to install the file (in Command Prompt, navigate to the folder the .whl file is located in, then type ‘pip install ,file_name>’). I’ve found that installing packages this way sometimes allows me to step around errors I’ve encountered while using

You can also create environments for R. Check it out here.

If you understand most of the materials above, you can now claim to be environmentally conscious!

Installing EPA SWMM on a Mac using WineBottler

A while ago, I posted a video tutorial on how to use WineBottler to install some engineering software on a Mac that often only works on Windows. I just realized I never posted it here, so the video is embedded below! YouTube also has a more general tutorial on WineBottler that is linked here.

We have had some success using this for HEC programs and EPA programs, but sometimes there are issues that preclude this solution working for all programs. But it is nice when it does work!

Evaluating and visualizing sampling quality

Evaluating and visualizing sampling quality

State sampling is a necessary step for any computational experiment, and the way sampling is carried out will influence the experiment’s results. This is the case for instance, for sensitivity analysis (i.e., the analysis of model output sensitivity to values of the input variables). The popular method of Sobol’ (Sobol’, 2001) relies on tailor-made sampling techniques that have been perfected through time (e.g., Joe and Kuo, 2008; Saltelli et al., 2010). Likewise, the method of Morris (Morris, 1991), less computationally demanding than Sobol’s (Herman et al., 2013) and used for screening (i.e., understanding which are the inputs that most influence outputs), relies on specific sampling techniques (Morris, 1991; Campolongo et al., 2007).

But what makes a good sample, and how can we understand the strengths and weaknesses of the sampling techniques (and also of the associated sensitivity techniques we are using) through quick visualization of some associated metrics?

This post aims to answer this question. It will first look at what makes a good sample using some examples from a sampling technique called latin hypercube sampling. Then it will show some handy visualization tools for quickly testing and visualizing a sample.

What makes a good sample?

Intuitively, the first criterion for a good sample is how well it covers the space from which to sample. The difficulty though, is how we define “how well” it practice, and the implications that has.

Let us take an example. A quick and popular way to generate a sample that covers the space fairly well is latin hypercube sampling (LHS; McKay et al., 1979). This algorithm relies on the following steps for drawing N samples from a hypercube-shaped of dimension p.:

1) Divide each dimension of the space in N equiprobabilistic bins. If we want uniform sampling, each bin will have the same length. Number bins from 1 to N each dimension.

2) Randomly draw points such that you have exactly one in each bin in each dimension.

For instance, for 6 points in 2 dimensions, this is a possible sample (points are selected randomly in each square labelled A to F):



It is easy to see that by definition, LHS has a good space coverage when projected on each individual axis. But space coverage in multiple dimensions all depends on the luck of the draw. Indeed, this is also a perfectly valid LHS configuration:


In the above configuration, it is easy to see that on top of poor space coverage, correlation between the sampled values along both axes is also a huge issue. For instance, if output values are hugely dependent on values of input 1, there will be large variations of the output values as values of input 2 change, regardless of the real impact of input 2 on the output.

Therefore, there are two kinds of issues to look at. One is correlation between sampled values of the input variables. We’ll look at it first because it is pretty straightforward. Then we’ll look at space coverage metrics, which are more numerous, do not look exactly at the same things, and can be sometimes conflicting. In fact, it is illuminating to see that sample quality metrics sometimes trade-off with one another, and several authors have turned to multi-objective optimization to come up with Pareto-optimal sample designs (e.g., Cioppa and Lucas, 2007; De Rainville et al., 2012).

One can look at authors such as Sheikholeslami and Razavi (2017) who summarize similar sets of variables. The goal there is not to write a summary of summaries but rather to give a sense that there is a relationship between which indicators of sampling quality matter, which sampling strategy to use, and what we want to do.

In what follows we note x_{k,i} the kth  sampled value of input variable i, with 1\leq k \leq N and 1\leq i \leq p.


Sample correlation is usually measured through the Pearson statistic. For inputs variables i and j among the p input variables, we note x_{k,i} and x_{k,j} the values of these variables i and j in sample k (1\leq k \leq N) have:

\rho_{ij} = \frac{\sum_{k=1}^N (x_{k,i}-\bar{x}_i)(x_{k,j}-\bar{x}_j)}{\sqrt{\sum_{k=1}^N (x_{k,i}-\bar{x}_i)^2 \sum_{k=1}^N (x_{k,j}-\bar{x}_j)^2}}

In the above equation, {\bar{x}_i}   and {\bar{x}_j} are the average sampled values of inputs i and j . 

Then, the indicator of sample quality looks at the maximal level of correlation across all variables:

\rho_{\max} = \max_{1\leq i \leq j \leq N} |\rho_{ij}|

This definition relies on the remark that \rho_{ij} = \rho_{ji}.

Space Coverage

There are different measures of space coverage.

We are best equipped to visualize space coverage via 1D or 2D projections of a sample. In 1D a measure of space coverage is by dividing each dimension in N equiprobable bins, and count the fraction of bins that have at least a point. Since N is the sample size, this measure is maximized when there is exactly one point in each bin — it is a measure that LHS maximizes.

Other measures of space coverage consider all dimension at once. A straightforward measure of space filling is the minimum Euclidean distance between two sampled points X in the generated ensemble:

D = \min_{1\leq k \leq m \leq N} \left\{ d(\textbf{X}^k, \textbf{X}^m) \right\}

Other indicators measure discrepancy which is a concept closely related to space coverage. In simple terms, a low discrepancy means that when we look at a subset of a sampled input space, its volume is roughly proportional to the number of points that are in it. In other words, there is no large subset with relatively few sampled points, and there is no small subset with a relatively large density of sampled points. A low discrepancy is desirable and in fact, Sobol’ sequences that form the basis of the Sobol’ sensitivity analysis method, are meant to minimize discrepancy.


Sample visualization

The figures that follow can be easily reproduced by cloning a little repository SampleVis I put together, and by entering on the command line python &> output.txt. That Python routine can be used with both latin hypercube and Sobol’ sampling (using the SAlib sampling tool; SAlib is a Python library developed primarily by Jon Herman and Will Usher, and which is extensively discussed in this blog.)

In what follows I give examples using a random draw of latin hypercube sampling with 100 members and 7 sampled variables.


No luck, there is statistically significant pairwise correlation between in three pairs of variables: x1 and x4, x4 and x6, and x5 and x6. Using LHS, it can take some time to be lucky enough until the drawn sample is correlation-free (alternatively, methods to minimize correlations have been extensively researched over the years, though no “silver bullet” really emerges).


This means any inference that works for both variables in any of these pairs may be suspect. The SampleVis toolbox contains also tools to plot whether these correlations are positive or negative.

Space coverage

The toolbox enables to plot several indicators of space coverage, assuming that the sampled space is the unit hypercube of dimension p (p=7 in this example). It computes discrepancy and minimal distance indicators. Ironically, my random LHS with 7 variables and 100 members has a better discrepancy (here I use an indicator called L2-star discrepancy) than a Sobol’ sequence with as many variables and members. The minimal Euclidean distance as well is better than for Sobol’ (0.330 vs. 0.348). This means that if for our experiment, space coverage is more important than correlation, the drawn LHS is pretty good.

To better grasp how well points cover the whole space, it is interesting to plot the distance of the point that is closest to each point, and to represent that in growing order:Distances

This means that some points are not evenly spaced, and some are more isolated than others. When dealing with a limited number of variables, it can also be interesting to visualize 2D projections of the sample, like this one:


This again goes to show that the sample is pretty-well distributed in space. We can compare with the same diagram for a Sobol’ sampling with 100 members and 7 variables:


It is pretty clear that the deterministic nature of Sobol’ sampling, for so few points, leaves more systematic holes in the sampled space. Of course, this sample is too small for any serious Sobol’ sensitivity analysis, and holes are plugged by a larger sample. But again, this comparison is a visual heuristic that tells a similar story as the global coverage indicator: this LHS draw is pretty good when it comes to coverage.



Campolongo, F., Cariboni, J. & Saltelli, A. (2007). An effective screening design for sensitivity analysis of large models. Environmental Modelling & Software, 22, 1509 – 1518.

Cioppa, T. M. & Lucas, T. W. (2007). Efficient Nearly Orthogonal and Space-Filling Latin Hypercubes. Technometrics, 49, 45-55.

De Rainville, F.-M., Gagné, C., Teytaud, O. & Laurendeau, D. (2012). Evolutionary Optimization of Low-discrepancy Sequences. ACM Trans. Model. Comput. Simul., ACM, 22, 9:1-9:25.

Herman, J. D., Kollat, J. B., Reed, P. M. & Wagener, T. (2013). Technical Note: Method of Morris effectively reduces the computational demands of global sensitivity analysis for distributed watershed models. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 17, 2893-2903.

Joe, S. & Kuo, F. (2008). Constructing Sobol Sequences with Better Two-Dimensional Projections. SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing, 30, 2635-2654.

McKay, M.D., Beckman R.J. & Conover, W.J. (1979).A Comparison of Three Methods for Selecting Values of Input Variables in the Analysis of Output from a Computer Code. Technometrics, 21(2), 239-245.

Morris, M. D. (1991). Factorial Sampling Plans for Preliminary Computational Experiments. Technometrics, 33, 161-174.

Saltelli, A., Annoni, P., Azzini, I., Campolongo, F., Ratto, M. & Tarantola, S. (2010). Variance based sensitivity analysis of model output. Design and estimator for the total sensitivity index. Computer Physics Communications, 181, 259 – 270.

Sheikholeslami, R. & Razavi, S. (2017). Progressive Latin Hypercube Sampling: An efficient approach for robust sampling-based analysis of environmental models. Environmental Modelling & Software, 93, 109 – 126.

Sobol’, I. (2001). Global sensitivity indices for nonlinear mathematical models and their Monte Carlo estimates. Mathematics and Computers in Simulation, 55, 271 – 280.


Creating shaded dial plots in python

I recently created a code for plotting shaded dials (figures that look like gauges or speedometers) in python and I thought I’d share my code here. The dials are well suited to plot things such as risk or maybe the probability of meeting a set of robustness criteria across a range of decision variables (shameless plug: if you’re at EWRI this week, come check out my talk: Conflicts in Coalitions, Wednesday morning at 8:30 in Northstar B for which I created these figures).

As hinted at above, I originally created the plot to show bivariate data, with one variable plotted as the location on the dial and the other as the color. You could also plot the same variable as both color and location if you wanted to emphasize the meaning of increasing value on the dial. An example dial created with the code is shown below.



Example custom dial. The above figure consists of two images, a dial plot (originally constructed from a pie plot) and a color bar, made as a separate image but using the same data.

The color distribution, location of arrow and labeling of the gauge and colorbar are all fully customizable. I created the figure by first making a pie chart using marplotlib, inscribing a small white circle in the middle and then cropping the image in half using the Python image processing library (PIL also known as Pillow). The arrow is created using the matplotlib “arrow” function and will point to a specified location on the dial. The code is created such that you can add an array of any length to specify your colors, the array does not have to be monotonic like the one shown above, but will accept any values between zero and one (if your data is not in this range I’d suggest normalizing).

Annotated code is below:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
from matplotlib import cm, gridspec
import numpy as np
import math
from PIL import Image
from mpl_toolkits.axes_grid1 import make_axes_locatable

# set your color array and name of figure here:
dial_colors = np.linspace(0,1,1000) # using linspace here as an example
figname = 'myDial'

# specify which index you want your arrow to point to
arrow_index = 750

# create labels at desired locations
# note that the pie plot ploots from right to left
labels = [' ']*len(dial_colors)*2
labels[25] = '100'
labels[250] = '75'
labels[500] = '50'
labels[750] = '25'
labels[975] = '0'

# function plotting a colored dial
def dial(color_array, arrow_index, labels, ax):
    # Create bins to plot (equally sized)

    # Create a pieplot, half white, half colored by your color array
    white_half = np.ones(len(color_array))*.5
    color_half = color_array
    color_pallet = np.concatenate([color_half, white_half])

    pie_wedge_collection = ax.pie(size_of_groups, colors=cs, labels=labels)

    for pie_wedge in pie_wedge_collection[0]:

    # create a white circle to make the pie chart a dial
    my_circle=plt.Circle( (0,0), 0.3, color='white')

    # create the arrow, pointing at specified index
    arrow_angle = (arrow_index/float(len(color_array)))*3.14159
    arrow_x = 0.2*math.cos(arrow_angle)
    arrow_y = 0.2*math.sin(arrow_angle)
    ax.arrow(0,0,-arrow_x,arrow_y, width=.02, head_width=.05, \
        head_length=.1, fc='k', ec='k')

# create figure and specify figure name
fig, ax = plt.subplots()

# make dial plot and save figure
dial(dial_colors, arrow_index, labels, ax)
plt.savefig(figname + '.png', bbox_inches='tight') 

# create a figure for the colorbar (crop so only colorbar is saved)
fig, ax2 = plt.subplots()
cmap = cm.ScalarMappable(cmap='RdYlBu')
cmap.set_array([min(dial_colors), max(dial_colors)])
cbar = plt.colorbar(cmap, orientation='horizontal')"Risk")
plt.savefig('cbar.png', bbox_inches='tight')
cbar ='cbar.png')
c_width, c_height = cbar.size
cbar = cbar.crop((0, .8*c_height, c_width, c_height)).save('cbar.png')

# open figure and crop bottom half
im = + '.png')
width, height = im.size

# crop bottom half of figure
# function takes top corner <span 				data-mce-type="bookmark" 				id="mce_SELREST_start" 				data-mce-style="overflow:hidden;line-height:0" 				style="overflow:hidden;line-height:0" 			></span>and bottom corner coordinates
# of image to keep, (0,0) in python images is the top left corner
im = im.crop((0, 0, width+c_width, int(height/2.0))).save(figname + '.png')

Other ways of doing this from around the web

This code was my way of making a dial plot, and I think it works well for plotting gradients on the dial. In the course of writing this I came across a couple similar codes, I’m listing them below. They both have advantages if you want to plot a small number of colors on your dial but I had trouble getting them to scale.

Here’s an example that creates dials using matplotlib patches, this method looks useful for plotting a small number of categorical data, I like the customization of the labels:

Here’s another alternative using the plotly library, I like the aesthetics but if you’re unfamiliar with plotly there’s a lot to learn before you can nicely customize the final product:

Creating Dendrograms in R

A dendrogram is an effective way of visualizing results from hierarchical clustering. The purpose of this post is to show how to make a basic dendrogram in R and illustrate the ways in which one can add colors to dendrogram labels and branches to help identify key clustering drivers. Making dendrograms in R is quite straightforward. However, customizing a dendrogram is not so straightforward, so this post shows some tricks that I learned and should help expedite the process!

First and foremost, your data must be in an appropriate from for hierarchical clustering to be conducted. Table 1 shows an example of how your data can be set up. Four different spatial temperatures projected by CMIP5 models are shown along with various attributes that could be potential driving forces behind clustering: the institution at which the model comes from, the RCP (radiative forcing scenario) used in the model, and the initial conditions with which the model was run.

Table 1: Model Attributes

At this point, it is helpful to add the model names as the row names (shown in the leftmost column) of your data frame, otherwise the dendrogram function will use the row number as a label on the dendrogram which can make it hard to interpret the clustering results.

Next, create a distance matrix, which will be composed of Euclidean distances between pairs of model projections. This is what clustering will be based on. We first create a new data frame composed of just the temperature values (shown below) by removing columns from the Model Attributes table.


Table 2: Temperature Projections

The following code can be used to create Table 2 from the original table and then the distance matrix.

#Create a new data frame with just temperature values

just_temperature=Model_Attributes[ -c(1:4) ]

#Create a distance matrix


Now, one can make the clustering diagram. Here I chose to use complete linkage clustering as the agglomeration method and wanted my dendrogram to be horizontal.

#Perform clustering


#Adjust dimensions of dendrogram so that it fits in plotting window


plot(complete_linkage_cluster,horiz =TRUE)

And that’s it! Here is the most basic dendrogram.


Figure 1: Dendrogram

Now for customization. You will first need to install the “dendextend” library in R.

We have 11 institutions that the models can come from and we want to visualize if institution has some impact on clustering, by assigning a color to the label. Here we use the rainbow color palette to assign each model a color and then replot the dendrogram.


#Create a vector of colors with one color for each institution


#Add colors to the ordered dendrogram
labels_colors(complete_linkage_cluster)= col[Model_Attributes$Institution][order.dendrogram(complete_linkage_cluster)]

#Replot the dendrogram

par(mar=c(3,4,1,15)) #Dendrogram parameters
plot(complete_linkage_cluster,horiz =TRUE)


Figure 2: Dendrogram with Colored Labels

Now suppose we wanted to change the branch colors to show what RCP each model was run with. Here, we assign a color from the rainbow palette to each of the four RCPs and add it to the dendrogram.


col_branches= col[Model_Attributes$RCP][order.dendrogram(complete_linkage_cluster)]

plot(colored_dendrogram,horiz =TRUE)


Figure 3: Dendrogram with Colored Labels and Colored Branches

Now finally, we can change the node shapes to reflect the initial condition. There are 10 total initial conditions, so we’re going to use the first 10 standard pch (plot character) elements to represent the individual nodes.

nodePar = list(lab.cex = 0.6, pch = c(NA,19),cex = 0.7, col = "black") #node parameters

dend1 = colored_dendrogram %>% set("leaves_pch", c(nodes))

plot(dend1,horiz =TRUE)


Figure 4: Dendrogram with Colored Labels, Colored Branches, and Node Shapes

And that’s how you customize a dendrogram in R!

Using HDF5/zlib compression in NetCDF4, part 2: testing the compression settings

There has been a previous post, courtesy of Greg Garner, on why HDF5/zlib compression matters for NetCDF4. That post featured a plot that showed how much you could compress your data when increasing the compression level. But the fine print also acknowledged that this data was for a pretty idealized dataset. So how much should you compress your data in a real-world application? How can you test what your trade-off really is between compression and computing time?

Follow this 4-step process to find out!

I’ll be illustrating this post using my own experience with the Water Balance Model (WBM), a model developed at the University of New Hampshire and that has served for several high-profile papers over the years (including Nature and Science). This is the first time that this model, written in Perl, is being ported to another research group, with the goal of exploring its behavior when running large ensembles of inputs (which I am starting to do! Exciting, but a story for another post).

Step 1. Read the manual

There is a lot of different software for creating NetCDF data. Depending on the situation, you may have a say on which to use, or be already using the tool that comes with the software suite you are working with. Of course, in the latter case, you can always change the tools. But reasonable a first step before that is to test them. Ergo, look up the documentation for the software you are using, to see how you can control compression on them.

Here, WBM uses the PDL::NetCDF Perl library, which has useful functions for adding data to a NetCDF file after every time step the model runs. Contrary to Greg’s post that uses C and where there are two flags (“shuffle” and “deflate”) and a compression level parameter (“deflate_level”), for PDL::NetCDF there are only two parameters. The SHUFFLE flag is the equivalent in Perl of the “shuffle” flag in C. The DEFLATE Perl parameter ihas integer values from 0 to 9, with a value 0 being equivalent to the C-flag “deflate” being turned off, and any value from 1 to 9 being equivalent to the “deflate”C-flag being on, the value of DEFLATE being then equivalent to the value of the “deflate_level” parameter in Greg’s post. Therefore, the DEFLATE variable from the PDL::NetCDF library in Perl lumps together the parameters “deflate” and “deflate_level” used in C.

I then located the DEFLATE and SHUFFLE variables within the auxiliary functions of the WBM. In the function write_nc, the following two lines of codes are key:

 my $deflate = set_default($$options{DEFLATE},1); # NetCDF4 deflate (compression) parameter</pre>
my $shuffle = set_default($$options{SHUFFLE},0); # NetCDF4 shuffle parameter 

Step 2. Set up a test protocol

This builds on Greg’s idea of recording time and resulting file size for all compression level. Here we are interested in these quantities for full-scale model runs, and not just for the generation of a single NetCDF dataset.

In this case therefore, we want to contrast the default setting above with stronger compression settings, for ensemble runs of WBM on the Cube (the local HPC cluster). For a better comparison, let us place ourselves in the conditions in which ensemble runs will be made. Runs will use all 16 cores of a Cube node, therefore for each compression setting, this experiment runs 16 instances of the WBM on a single node. Each of the 16 instances runs on a single core. All WBM runs are identical so the only differences between run times and result file size come from compression settings.

Compression settings for (SHUFFLE,DEFLATE) are (0,1) by default, and we compare that with all settings from (1,1) to (1,9).

Step 3. Run experiment, get results

Here are the results from this experiment. Results consider 47 output fields for WBM runs with a daily time-step for 8 years (2009-2016), plus 5 years of warmup (this is pretty common for hydrological models). All this in a spatial mesh of 148,500 grid cells. A folder containing binaries for a single input variable, for this time span and spatial coverage, has a size of 3.1GB. Therefore, the expected size for 47 variables in binary format is 146Go. Let us compare with our results:


As one can see the presence of the shuffle flag or the value of the deflate parameter have little influence on the size of the results files. Compressed results are 3 to 4 time smaller than binaries, which highlights the interest of compressing, but also means we do not have the order(s) of magnitude differences reported by Greg’s blog post. This is mainly because the binary format used for WBM inputs is much more efficient than the uncompressed ASCII that Greg used in his experiment. For a deflate parameter of 9, there is an apparent problem within the PDL library, and no output (note that a single-core run with shuffle=0 and deflate=9 did not lead to a similar problem).

Step 4. Conclude on compression parameters

Here the epxerimental setup has shown that carefully selecting the output fields will save more space than fine-tuning NetCDF compression parameters. For instance, some of the 47 output fields above are fully redundant with others. Others are residual fields, and the only interest of looking them up is to verify that a major development within the WBM code did not mess up with the overall water balance.

More generally, the effects of compression are situation-specific and are not as great when there is no obvious regularity in the data (as is often the case with outputs from large models), or when the binary format used is already much better than ASCII. This said, NetCDF still occupies much less space than binaries, and is much easier to handle: WBM outputs are contained in one file per year (8 files total) with very useful metadata info…