Random Forests for dependent data

07/30/2020 ∙ by Arkajyoti Saha, et al. ∙ 0

Random forest (RF) is one of the most popular methods for estimating regression functions. The local nature of the RF algorithm, based on intra-node means and variances, is ideal when errors are i.i.d. For dependent error processes like time series and spatial settings where data in all the nodes will be correlated, operating locally ignores this dependence. Also, RF will involve resampling of correlated data, violating the principles of bootstrap. Theoretically, consistency of RF has been established for i.i.d. errors, but little is known about the case of dependent errors. We propose RF-GLS, a novel extension of RF for dependent error processes in the same way Generalized Least Squares (GLS) fundamentally extends Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) for linear models under dependence. The key to this extension is the equivalent representation of the local decision-making in a regression tree as a global OLS optimization which is then replaced with a GLS loss to create a GLS-style regression tree. This also synergistically addresses the resampling issue, as the use of GLS loss amounts to resampling uncorrelated contrasts (pre-whitened data) instead of the correlated data. For spatial settings, RF-GLS can be used in conjunction with Gaussian Process correlated errors to generate kriging predictions at new locations. RF becomes a special case of RF-GLS with an identity working covariance matrix. We establish consistency of RF-GLS under beta- (absolutely regular) mixing error processes and show that this general result subsumes important cases like autoregressive time series and spatial Matern Gaussian Processes. As a byproduct, we also establish consistency of RF for beta-mixing processes, which to our knowledge, is the first such result for RF under dependence. We empirically demonstrate the improvement achieved by RF-GLS over RF for both estimation and prediction under dependence.

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