A random walk ? What else ?

February 2, 2013
By

(This article was first published on Freakonometrics » R-english, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Consider the following time series,

What does it look like ? I know, this is a stupid game, but I keep using it in my time series courses. It does look like a random walk, doesn’t it ? If we use Philipps-Perron test, yes, it does,

> PP.test(x)

	Phillips-Perron Unit Root Test

data:  x 
Dickey-Fuller = -2.2421, Truncation lag parameter = 6, p-value = 0.4758

If we look at the autocorrelation function, we do observe some persistence,

> acf(x,100)

Perhaps this persistence can be related to long range dependence, or to some fractional random walk. A natural idea could be estimate Hurst parameter, using for instance Beran (1992) estimator – based on Whittle (1956) – where we assume that the autocorrelation function satisfies

as  for some  (the so called Hurst index). But here, we start to observe unexpected ouputs,

> library(longmemo)
> (d  <- WhittleEst(x))
'WhittleEst' Whittle estimator for  fractional Gaussian noise ('fGn');	 call:
WhittleEst(x = x)
	  time series of length  n = 759.

H = 0.9899335
coefficients 'eta' =
    Estimate Std. Error z value   Pr(>|z|)
H 0.98993350 0.02468323 40.1055 < 2.22e-16
 <==> d := H - 1/2 = 0.49 (0.025)

 $ vcov       : num [1, 1] 0.000609
  ..- attr(*, "dimnames")=List of 2
  .. ..$ : chr "H"
  .. ..$ : chr "H"
 $ periodogr.x: num [1:379] 1479.3 1077.3 371.7 287.2 51.2 ...
 $ spec       : num [1:379] 62.5 31.7 21.3 16.1 12.9 ...

or more precisely some non-expected values for Hurst parameter, which should be in 

> confint(d)
      2.5 %   97.5 %
H 0.9415553 1.038312

Oops, perhaps, we did miss something, because it looks like there is extremely strong persistence on our time series,

> plot(d)

It is probablty time to ask where I found that series… To be honest, I did borrow  it from a great canadian website http://climate.weatheroffice.gc.ca/climateData/. For instance, it you want the temperature we did experience a few days ago, you can use

> Y=2013
> M=1
> D=25
> url=paste(
"http://climate.weatheroffice.gc.ca/climateData/hourlydata_e.html?
timeframe=1&Prov=QC&StationID=5415&hlyRange=1953-01-01|2013-02-
01&Year=",Y,"&Month=",M,"&Day=",D,sep="")
> page=scan(url,what="character")

Yes, that series is the temperature we did experience in Montréal last month (hourly time seies). On the graph below, you can actually compare it with temperature experienced in Januarys over the past 60 years,

So it is not that surprising to see long range dependence models appearing (I did write a paper on that topic precisely a few years ago). What I found puzzeling is that persistence is large, extremely large. And the problem is that I do not see how we can explain ‘jumps’ that we do observe on that series. For instance the behavior of the series while I was in Europe, before January 20th: within 3 days, the temperature went down, from 0°C to -20°C, and up from -20°C to 0°C, and then down again, from 0°C to -20°C (a nice И if we use cyrillic letters). Or how can we explain the oscillating behavior observed the week after, where the temperature went up, from -25°C to (almost) +10°C in a few days. Within 10 days, we did observe also two ‘jumps’ (or ‘crashes‘ if we want to use the terminology of financial time series) with a decrease of 25 degrees in less than 24 hours ! Obviously, we need to find other classes of model to replicate that kind of behavior we observe on temperatures…

Arthur Charpentier

Arthur Charpentier, professor in Montréal, in Actuarial Science. Former professor-assistant at ENSAE Paristech, associate professor at Ecole Polytechnique and assistant professor in Economics at Université de Rennes 1.  Graduated from ENSAE, Master in Mathematical Economics (Paris Dauphine), PhD in Mathematics (KU Leuven), and Fellow of the French Institute of Actuaries.

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