Introduction to turbulence/Statistical analysis/Estimation from a finite number of realizations
Estimators for averaged quantities
Since there can never an infinite number of realizations from which ensemble averages (and probability densities) can be computed, it is essential to ask: How many realizations are enough? The answer to this question must be sought by looking at the statistical properties of estimators based on a finite number of realization. There are two questions which must be answered. The first one is:
- Is the expected value (or mean value) of the estimator equal to the true ensemble mean? Or in other words, is yje estimator unbiased?
The second question is
- Does the difference between the and that of the true mean decrease as the number of realizations increases? Or in other words, does the estimator converge in a statistical sense (or converge in probability). Figure 2.9 illustrates the problems which can arise.
Bias and convergence of estimators
A procedure for answering these questions will be illustrated by considerind a simple estimator for the mean, the arithmetic mean considered above, . For independent realizations where is finite, is given by:
Now, as we observed in our simple coin-flipping experiment, since the are random, so must be the value of the estimator . For the estimator to be unbiased, the mean value of must be true ensemble mean, , i.e.
It is easy to see that since the operations of averaging adding commute,
(Note that the expected value of each is just since the are assumed identically distributed). Thus is, in fact, an unbiased estimator for the mean.
The question of convergence of the estimator can be addressed by defining the square of variability of the estimator, say , to be: