Accounting for Multiple Testing in the Analysis of Spatio-Temporal Environmental Data


The statistical analysis of environmental data from remote sensing and Earth system simulations often entails the analysis of gridded spatio-temporal data, with a hypothesis test being performed for each grid cell. When the whole image or a set of grid cells are analyzed for a global effect, the problem of multiple testing arises. When no global effect is present, we expect $α%$ of all grid cells to be false positives, and spatially autocorrelated data can give rise to clustered spurious rejections that can be misleading in an analysis of spatial patterns. In this work, we review standard solutions for the multiple testing problem and apply them to spatio-temporal environmental data. These solutions are independent of the test statistic, and any test statistic can be used (e.g., tests for trends or change points in time series). Additionally, we introduce permutation methods and show that they have more statistical power. Real-world data are used to provide examples of the analysis, and the performance of each method is assessed in a simulation study. Unlike other simulation studies, our study compares the statistical power of the presented methods in a comprehensive simulation study. In conclusion, we present several statistically rigorous methods for analyzing spatio-temporal environmental data and controlling the false positives. These methods allow the use of any test statistic in a wide range of applications in environmental sciences and remote sensing. © 2020, The Author(s).

Environmental and Ecological Statistics