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Counteracting structural errors in ensemble forecast of influenza outbreaks.

Abstract

For influenza forecasts generated using dynamical models, forecast inaccuracy is partly attributable to the nonlinear growth of error. As a consequence, quantification of the nonlinear error structure in current forecast models is needed so that this growth can be corrected and forecast skill improved. Here, we inspect the error growth of a compartmental influenza model and find that a robust error structure arises naturally from the nonlinear model dynamics. By counteracting these structural errors, diagnosed using error breeding, we develop a new forecast approach that combines dynamical error correction and statistical filtering techniques. In retrospective forecasts of historical influenza outbreaks for 95 US cities from 2003 to 2014, overall forecast accuracy for outbreak peak timing, peak intensity and attack rate, are substantially improved for predicted lead times up to 10 weeks. This error growth correction method can be generalized to improve the forecast accuracy of other infectious disease dynamical models.Inaccuracy of influenza forecasts based on dynamical models is partly due to nonlinear error growth. Here the authors address the error structure of a compartmental influenza model, and develop a new improved forecast approach combining dynamical error correction and statistical filtering techniques.

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