Improving performance of spatio-temporal machine learning models using forward feature selection and target-oriented validation

Hanna Meyer*, Christoph Reudenbach, Tomislav Hengl, Marwan Katurji, Thomas Nauss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Importance of target-oriented validation strategies for spatio-temporal prediction models is illustrated using two case studies: (1) modelling of air temperature (Tair) in Antarctica, and (2) modelling of volumetric water content (VW) for the R.J. Cook Agronomy Farm, USA. Performance of a random k-fold cross-validation (CV) was compared to three target-oriented strategies: Leave-Location-Out (LLO), Leave-Time-Out (LTO), and Leave-Location-and-Time-Out (LLTO) CV. Results indicate that considerable differences between random k-fold (R2 = 0.9 for Tair and 0.92 for VW) and target-oriented CV (LLO R2 = 0.24 for Tair and 0.49 for VW) exist, highlighting the need for target-oriented validation to avoid an overoptimistic view on models. Differences between random k-fold and target-oriented CV indicate spatial over-fitting caused by misleading variables. To decrease over-fitting, a forward feature selection in conjunction with target-oriented CV is proposed. It decreased over-fitting and simultaneously improved target-oriented performances (LLO CV R2 = 0.47 for Tair and 0.55 for VW).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalEnvironmental Modelling and Software
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018



  • Cross-validation
  • Feature selection
  • Over-fitting
  • Random forest
  • Spatio-temporal
  • Target-oriented validation

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