Hybrid Neural Networks and Boosted Regression Tree Models for Predicting Roadside Particulate Matter

Aminu Suleiman, Miles Tight, Andrew Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
163 Downloads (Pure)


This paper examines the application of artificial neural network (ANN) and boosted regression tree (BRT) methods in air quality modelling. The methods were applied to developing air quality models for predicting roadside particle mass concentration (PM10, PM2.5) and particle number counts (PNC) based on air pollution, traffic and meteorological data from Marylebone Road in London. Elastic net, Lasso and principal components analysis were used as feature selection methods for the ANN models to reduce the number of predictor variables and improve their generalisation. The performance of the ANN with feature selection (ANN hybrid) and the BRT models was evaluated and compared using statistical performance metrics. The performance parameters include root mean square error (RMSE), fraction of prediction within a factor of two of the observation (FAC2), mean bias (MB), mean gross error (MGE), the coefficient of correlation (R) and coefficient of efficiency (CoE) values. The input variables selected by the elastic net produced the best performing ANN models. The ANN hybrid produced models performed only slightly better than the BRT models. The R values of the ANN elastic net and BRT models were 0.96 and 0.95 for PM10, 0.96 and 0.96 for PM2.5 and 0.89 and 0.87 for PNC, respectively. Their corresponding CoE values were 0.72 and 0.70 for PM10, 0.74 and 0.76 for PM2.5 and 0.81 and 0.71 for PNC respectively. About 80–99% of all the model predictions are within a factor of two of the observed particle concentrations. The BRT models offer more advantages regarding model interpretation and permit feature selection. Therefore, the study recommends the use of BRT over ANN where the model interpretation is a priority.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731–750
JournalEnvironmental Modeling & Assessment
Issue number6
Early online date30 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Air quality
  • Boosted regression trees
  • Neural network
  • Particulate matter


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