Simulating the effect of non-linear mode coupling in cosmological parameter estimation

A. Kiessling, Andy Taylor, A. F. Heavens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fisher Information Matrix methods are commonly used in cosmology to estimate the accuracy that cosmological parameters can be measured with a given experiment and to optimize the design of experiments. However, the standard approach usually assumes both data and parameter estimates are Gaussian-distributed. Further, for survey forecasts and optimization it is usually assumed that the power-spectrum covariance matrix is diagonal in Fourier space. However, in the low-redshift Universe, non-linear mode coupling will tend to correlate small-scale power, moving information from lower to higher order moments of the field. This movement of information will change the predictions of cosmological parameter accuracy. In this paper we quantify this loss of information by comparing naive Gaussian Fisher matrix forecasts with a maximum likelihood parameter estimation analysis of a suite of mock weak lensing catalogues derived from N-body simulations, based on the SUNGLASS pipeline, for a 2D and tomographic shear analysis of a Euclid-like survey. In both cases, we find that the 68 per cent confidence area of the Omega(m)-sigma(8) plane increases by a factor of 5. However, the marginal errors increase by just 20-40 per cent. We propose a new method to model the effects of non-linear shear-power mode coupling in the Fisher matrix by approximating the shear-power distribution as a multivariate Gaussian with a covariance matrix derived from the mock weak lensing survey. We find that this approximation can reproduce the 68 per cent confidence regions of the full maximum likelihood analysis in the Omega(m)-sigma(8) plane to high accuracy for both 2D and tomographic weak lensing surveys. Finally, we perform a multiparameter analysis of Omega(m), sigma(8), h, n(s), w(0) and w(a) to compare the Gaussian and non-linear mode-coupled Fisher matrix contours. The 6D volume of the 1 sigma error contours for the non-linear Fisher analysis is a factor of 3 larger than for the Gaussian case, and the shape of the 68 per cent confidence volume is modified. We propose that future Fisher matrix estimates of cosmological parameter accuracies should include mode-coupling effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1055
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


  • gravitational lensing: weak
  • methods: numerical
  • methods: statistical
  • large-scale structure of Universe


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