7 Exponential smoothing

Exponential smoothing was proposed in the late 1950s (Brown 1959, Holt 1957 and Winters 1960 are key pioneering works) and has motivated some of the most successful forecasting methods. Forecasts produced using exponential smoothing methods are weighted averages of past observations, with the weights decaying exponentially as the observations get older. In other words, the more recent the observation the higher the associated weight. This framework generates reliable forecasts quickly and for a wide spectrum of time series which is a great advantage and of major importance to applications in industry.

This chapter is divided into two parts. In the first part we present in detail the mechanics of all exponential smoothing methods and their application in forecasting time series with various characteristics. This is key in understanding the intuition behind these methods. In this setting, selecting and using a forecasting method may appear to be somewhat ad-hoc. The selection of the method is generally based on recognising key components of the time series (trend and seasonal) and how these enter the smoothing method (in an additive or multiplicative manner).

In the second part of the chapter we present statistical models that underlie exponential smoothing methods. These models generate identical point forecasts to the methods discussed in the first part of the chapter, but also generate prediction intervals. Furthermore, this statistical framework allows for genuine model selection between competing models.