Soil moisture prediction using support vector machines

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Journal of American Water Resources Association





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Herein, a recently developed methodology, Support Vector Machines (SVMs), is presented and applied to the challenge of soil moisture prediction. Support Vector Machines are derived from statistical learning theory and can be used to predict a quantity forward in time based on training that uses past data, hence providing a statistically sound approach to solving inverse problems. The principal strength of SVMs lies in the fact that they employ Structural Risk Minimization (SRM) instead of Empirical Risk Minimization (ERM). The SVMs formulate a quadratic optimization problem that ensures a global optimum, which makes them superior to traditional learning algorithms such as Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs). The resulting model is sparse and not characterized by the “curse of dimensionality.” Soil moisture distribution and variation is helpful in predicting and understanding various hydrologic processes, including weather changes, energy and moisture fluxes, drought, irrigation scheduling, and rainfall/runoff generation. Soil moisture and meteorological data are used to generate SVM predictions for four and seven days ahead. Predictions show good agreement with actual soil moisture measurements. Results from the SVM modeling are compared with predictions obtained from ANN models and show that SVM models performed better for soil moisture forecasting than ANN models. (KEY TERMS: support vector machines; statistical learning; predictions; soil science; soil moisture; crop production.)

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