Development and Evaluation of Geostatistical Methods for Non-Euclidean-Based Spatial Covariance Matrices

  • Benjamin J. K. DavisEmail author
  • Frank C. Curriero


Customary and routine practice of geostatistical modeling assumes that inter-point distances are a Euclidean metric (i.e., as the crow flies) when characterizing spatial variation. There are many real-world settings, however, in which the use of a non-Euclidean distance is more appropriate, for example, in complex bodies of water. However, if such a distance is used with current semivariogram functions, the resulting spatial covariance matrices are no longer guaranteed to be positive-definite. Previous attempts to address this issue for geostatistical prediction (i.e., kriging) models transform the non-Euclidean space into a Euclidean metric, such as through multi-dimensional scaling (MDS). However, these attempts estimate spatial covariances only after distances are scaled. An alternative method is proposed to re-estimate a spatial covariance structure originally based on a non-Euclidean distance metric to ensure validity. This method is compared to the standard use of Euclidean distance, as well as a previously utilized MDS method. All methods are evaluated using cross-validation assessments on both simulated and real-world experiments. Results show a high level of bias in prediction variance for the previously developed MDS method that has not been highlighted previously. Conversely, the proposed method offers a preferred tradeoff between prediction accuracy and prediction variance and at times outperforms the existing methods for both sets of metrics. Overall results indicate that this proposed method can provide improved geostatistical predictions while ensuring valid results when the use of non-Euclidean distances is warranted.


Geostatistics Kriging Non-Euclidean distances Positive-definite covariance matrices Multi-dimensional scaling Water salinity 



This work was supported by the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [Grant No. 1R01AI123931-01A1 to F.C.C. (principal investigator)]. Additional support for B.J.K.D. was provided in part by the Johns Hopkins’ Environment, Energy, Sustainability & Health Institute Fellowship and the Center for a Livable Future-Lerner Fellowship, as well as The National Science Foundation’s Water, Climate, and Health Integrative Education and Research traineeship (Grant No. 1069213). The authors would like to thank Tim Shields for helping to develop the schematic maps displayed in this paper.


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Copyright information

© International Association for Mathematical Geosciences 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Spatial Science for Public Health CenterJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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