Individual versus superensemble forecasts of seasonal influenza outbreaks in the United States.


Recent research has produced a number of methods for forecasting seasonal influenza outbreaks. However, differences among the predicted outcomes of competing forecast methods can limit their use in decision-making. Here, we present a method for reconciling these differences using Bayesian model averaging. We generated retrospective forecasts of peak timing, peak incidence, and total incidence for seasonal influenza outbreaks in 48 states and 95 cities using 21 distinct forecast methods, and combined these individual forecasts to create weighted-average superensemble forecasts. We compared the relative performance of these individual and superensemble forecast methods by geographic location, timing of forecast, and influenza season. We find that, overall, the superensemble forecasts are more accurate than any individual forecast method and less prone to producing a poor forecast. Furthermore, we find that these advantages increase when the superensemble weights are stratified according to the characteristics of the forecast or geographic location. These findings indicate that different competing influenza prediction systems can be combined into a single more accurate forecast product for operational delivery in real time.

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