Outlier Detection in Urban Air Quality Sensor Networks

V.M. van Zoest (Corresponding Author), A. Stein, G. Hoek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
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Low-cost urban air quality sensor networks are increasingly used to study the spatio-temporal variability in air pollutant concentrations. Recently installed low-cost urban sensors, however, are more prone to result in erroneous data than conventional monitors, e.g., leading to outliers. Commonly applied outlier detection methods are unsuitable for air pollutant measurements that have large spatial and temporal variations as occur in urban areas. We present a novel outlier detection method based upon a spatio-temporal classification, focusing on hourly NO2 concentrations. We divide a full year’s observations into 16 spatio-temporal classes, reflecting urban background vs. urban traffic stations, weekdays vs. weekends, and four periods per day. For each spatio-temporal class, we detect outliers using the mean and standard deviation of the normal distribution underlying the truncated normal distribution of the NO2 observations. Applying this method to a low-cost air quality sensor network in the city of Eindhoven, the Netherlands, we found 0.1–0.5% of outliers. Outliers could reflect measurement errors or unusual high air pollution events. Additional evaluation using expert knowledge is needed to decide on treatment of the identified outliers. We conclude that our method is able to detect outliers while maintaining the spatio-temporal variability of air pollutant concentrations in urban areas.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalWater, air and soil pollution
Issue number4
Early online date8 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Air quality
  • Air pollution
  • Outlier Detection
  • NO2
  • Sensor Network


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