Predicting drought using Bayesian structural time series model


  • Sophia Wang Monta Vista High School
  • Connor Lee Saratoga High School
  • Dr. XL Pang Mentor, Monta Vista High School



Drought prediction, Statistical modeling


The western U.S. has been experiencing a mega-scale drought since 2000. By killing trees and drying out forests, the drought triggers widespread wildfire activities. In the 2020 California fire season alone, more than 10.3 million acres of land were burned and over 10000 structures were damaged. The estimated cost is over $12 billion. Drought also devastates agriculture and drains the social and emotional well-being of impacted communities. 

This work aims at predicting the occurrence and severity of drought, and thus helping mitigate drought related adversaries. A machine learning based framework was developed, including time series data collection, model training, forecast and visualization. The data source is from the National Drought Monitor center with FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards) geographic identification codes. For model training and forecasting, a Bayesian structural time series (BSTS) based statistical model was employed for a time-series forecasting of drought spatially and temporally. In the model, a time-series component captures the general trend and seasonal patterns in the data; a regression component captures the impact of the drought in measurements such as severity of drought, temperature, etc. The statistical measure, Mean Absolute Percentage Error, was used as the model accuracy metric. The last 10 years of drought data up to 2020-09-01 was used for model training and validation. Back-testing was implemented to validate the model . Afterwards, the drought forecast was generated for the upcoming 3 weeks of the United States based on the unit of county level. 2-D heat maps were also integrated for visual reference. 



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References or Bibliography

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How to Cite

Wang, S., Lee, C. ., & Pang, X. (2021). Predicting drought using Bayesian structural time series model . Journal of Student Research, 10(3).



HS Research Articles