Non-Gaussianity in the weak lensing correlation function likelihood-implications for cosmological parameter biases

Chien Hao Lin, Joachim Harnois-Déraps, Tim Eifler, Taylor Pospisil, Rachel Mandelbaum, Ann B. Lee, Sukhdeep Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


We study the significance of non-Gaussianity in the likelihood of weak lensing shear two-point correlation functions, detecting significantly non-zero skewness and kurtosis in 1D marginal distributions of shear two-point correlation functions in simulated weak lensing data. We examine the implications in the context of future surveys, in particular LSST, with derivations of how the non-Gaussianity scales with survey area. We show that there is no significant bias in 1D posteriors of ωm and σ8 due to the non-Gaussian likelihood distributions of shear correlations functions using the mock data (100 deg2). We also present a systematic approach to constructing approximate multivariate likelihoods with 1D parametric functions by assuming independence or more flexible non-parametric multivariate methods after decorrelating the data points using principal component analysis (PCA). While the use of PCA does not modify the non-Gaussianity of the multivariate likelihood, we find empirically that the 1D marginal sampling distributions of the PCA components exhibit less skewness and kurtosis than the original shear correlation functions. Modelling the likelihood with marginal parametric functions based on the assumption of independence between PCA components thus gives a lower limit for the biases. We further demonstrate that the difference in cosmological parameter constraints between the multivariate Gaussian likelihood model and more complex non-Gaussian likelihood models would be even smaller for an LSST-like survey. In addition, the PCA approach automatically serves as a data compression method, enabling the retention of the majority of the cosmological information while reducing the dimensionality of the data vector by a factor of ∼5.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2977-2993
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • cosmological parameters
  • gravitational lensing: Weak
  • methods: Statistical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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