Neural networks (NN) have become an important tool for prediction tasks—both regression and classification—in environmental science. Since many environmental-science problems involve life-or-death decisions and policy making, it is crucial to provide not only predictions but also an estimate of the uncertainty in the predictions. Until recently, very few tools were available to provide uncertainty quantification (UQ) for NN predictions. However, in recent years the computer-science field has developed numerous UQ approaches, and several research groups are exploring how to apply these approaches in environmental science. We provide an accessible introduction to six of these UQ approaches, then focus on tools for the next step, namely, to answer the question:
Neural networks are used for many environmental-science applications, some involving life-or-death decision-making. In recent years new methods have been developed to provide much-needed uncertainty estimates for NN predictions. We seek to accelerate the adoption of these methods in the environmental-science community with an accessible introduction to 1) methods for computing uncertainty estimates in NN predictions and 2) methods for evaluating such estimates.