Model-based geostatistics


P. J. Diggle Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YF, UK


Conventional geostatistical methodology solves the problem of predicting the realized value of a linear functional of a Gaussian spatial stochastic process S(x) based on observations Yi = S(xi) + Zi at sampling locations xi, where the Zi are mutually independent, zero-mean Gaussian random variables. We describe two spatial applications for which Gaussian distributional assumptions are clearly inappropriate. The first concerns the assessment of residual contamination from nuclear weapons testing on a South Pacific island, in which the sampling method generates spatially indexed Poisson counts conditional on an unobserved spatially varying intensity of radioactivity; we conclude that a conventional geostatistical analysis oversmooths the data and underestimates the spatial extremes of the intensity. The second application provides a description of spatial variation in the risk of campylobacter infections relative to other enteric infections in part of north Lancashire and south Cumbria. For this application, we treat the data as binomial counts at unit postcode locations, conditionally on an unobserved relative risk surface which we estimate. The theoretical framework for our extension of geostatistical methods is that, conditionally on the unobserved process S(x), observations at sample locations xi form a generalized linear model with the corresponding values of S(xi) appearing as an offset term in the linear predictor. We use a Bayesian inferential framework, implemented via the Markov chain Monte Carlo method, to solve the prediction problem for non-linear functionals of S(x), making a proper allowance for the uncertainty in the estimation of any model parameters.