Statistical comparison between SARIMA and ANN’s performance for surface water quality time series prediction


The performance comparison studies of the autoregressive integrated moving average model (ARIMA) and the artificial neural network (ANN) were mostly carried out between the selected model structures through trial-and-error, strongly influenced by model structure uncertainty. This research aims to make up for this inadequacy. First, a surface water quality prediction case study including eight monitoring sites in China was introduced. Second, the ARIMA and ANN’s performance was compared statistically between 6912 Seasonal ARIMA (SARIMA) and 110,592 feedforward ANN with different model structures, based on the mean square error (MSE) distributions depicted by boxplots. In a statistical view, the ANN models obtained a significantly lower median value and a more concentrated distribution of validation MSEs, which indicated lighter overfitting and better generalization ability. Furthermore, the optimal SARIMA models’ performance is inferior to even the median of the ANN models in the case study. In contrast with the previous comparisons among selected models, the statistical comparison in this study shows lower uncertainty.

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Data availability

The datasets and codes are available in our GitHub repository:


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This study was financially supported by the Major Science and Technology Project of Water Pollution Control and Management in China (grant no. 2018ZX07208006) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 51778451). We also thank the 111 Project (B13017) of Tongji University.


Major Science and Technology Project of Water Pollution Control and Management in China (grant no. 2018ZX07208006). National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 51778451). 111 Project (B13017) of Tongji University.

Author information




Xuan Wang: conceptualization, methodology, software, data curation, writing—original draft preparation.

Wenchong Tian: methodology, investigation, writing—reviewing, and editing.

Zhenliang Liao: supervision, writing—reviewing, and editing.

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Correspondence to Zhenliang Liao.

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Wang, X., Tian, W. & Liao, Z. Statistical comparison between SARIMA and ANN’s performance for surface water quality time series prediction. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2021).

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  • ANN
  • Surface water quality
  • Time series prediction
  • Statistical comparison
  • Grid sampling