​​Ultimate Guide for ARIMA Time Series Forecasting

Ultimate Guide for ARIMA Time Series Forecasting

ARIMA, an acronym for Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average, is not just a statistical method; it's a story of time told through data. It captures the essence of time series data, accounting for trends, seasonality, and noise, allowing us to project future values with surprising accuracy. 

Whether you're a seasoned data scientist looking for a refresher or a beginner eager to dive into the world of time series forecasting, this guide is crafted for you.

In this "Ultimate Guide for ARIMA Time Series Forecasting," we will embark on a journey, starting with the foundational concepts of ARIMA, delving deep into its intricacies, and finally emerging with a toolkit that will empower you to harness the full potential of ARIMA models. 

Ultimate Guide for ARIMA Time Series Forecasting

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By the end of this guide, forecasting the future will seem less like magic and more like a science, a skill you can master and employ.

So, let's set the stage and prepare to unravel the mysteries of time through the lens of ARIMA!

Before we learn about ARIMA time-series with Python,  let’s understand the basics of time-series data.

What is Time-Series and Time Series Forecasting?

Time series is a sequence of data that is recorded at regular intervals. The data points (past values) are used for analysis for forecasting a future course of action. 

What is Time-Series and Time Series Forecasting?

It is considered to be time-dependent. Typically, time series has four components which are discussed below

  • Trend: The trend is one of the primary components of a time series. It depicts growth or decline in a time series over a long period.
  • Seasonality: This trend represents short-term changes in data due to seasonal factors. For example, exports are subject to changes when there are certain variations in weather or government norms. Likewise, the sale of the umbrellas will change due to changes in the weather.
  • Cyclical movements: In a cyclic trend, long-term variations are observed in the time series. These variations are common within a business cycle.
  • Irregular fluctuation: The trend depicts a sudden change in the time series and is not likely to be repeated. Such changes are not possible to be explained by trends or cyclic movements. The occurrence of this trend is purely random.

On the other hand, time series forecasting includes the methods of exploring time-series data that is collected over a specific period. This method enables the forecasting of values for future predictions. It is important to note that every data with time or data values may not be considered as time-series data. 

Some of the common usages of time series forecasting are in the fields of e-commerce, retail, stock market, and weather predictions. The time series forecasting methods are as follows.

  • AutoRegressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) Model
  • Seasonal AutoRegressive Integrated Moving Average (SARIMA) Model
  • Vector AutoRegression (VAR) Method
  • Long Short Term Memory Network (LSTM)

What Is ARIMA Time Series Model?

In Time series forecasting, the ARIMA models are one of the algorithms or techniques used to predict or forecast with the help of past data available.  They are designed in such a way that they can capture the autocorrelation and dependence of the target variable on time and other variables present in the dataset. 

What Is ARIMA Time Series Model?

The ARIMA model can be called an autoregressive integrated moving average. That means they mainly consist of 3 things.

  1. Autoregressive means the dependence of the current observation on the past observations; 
  2. Integrated means the differencing of the data, which is used to make the data stationary 
  3. Moving average can be considered as the capturing of the relationship between the current observation and past error or residual terms. 

In general, the ASRIMA models can be written as ARIMA(p,d,q)


  • p represents the order of autoregression, 
  • d represents the order of differencing,
  • q represents the order of moving average.

The optimum value of these variables gives an accurate ARIMA model for the dataset. Now let us discuss the autoregression and moving average in detail to clarify the idea about it.

Auto Regression and Moving Average

The autoregressive and moving average is one of the key points in ARIMA models to have an idea about before working with the same. Let us start with the autoregressive models.

Autoregression Models

The autoregression models are the models which are used to forecast or predict the current values based on the past observation or the dataset. Here the current values of the data are predicated with the help of one linear relationship between the past values and the current observation. 

Here the linear relationship between current observation and past observation is assumed, which helps predict the current observation easily and efficiently by using the past data or observations.

Moving Average Models

The moving average models are also the same as the autoregressive models; just here, the current values of the observation are predicted with the help of past residuals or error terms. Here the noise or small fluctuations of the data can be predicted with these error terms, which autoregression models can not do. 

Mainly there is only one major difference between these two models autoregression assumes the linear relationship between current and past observations, and the moving averages use past errors to predict the current observations. 

Let us discuss the equation of the AR and MA models, which will clear the idea about the mathematical functioning of the model.

Mathematical Equations of ARIMA Models 

Mathematical Equations of ARIMA Models

The ARIMA model consists of AR, I, and MA terms, so the equations of these terms are considered for the final ARIMA models. 

The equation of the AR models is

Y(t) = c + phi1 * Y(t-1) + phi2 * Y(t-2) + ... + phip * Y(t-p) + epsilon(t)

The equation for the MA models is

Y(t) = c + theta1 * epsilon(t-1) + theta2 * epsilon(t-2) + ... + thetaq * epsilon(t-q) + epsilon(t)


  • Y(t) = Current value of the observation 
  • C = Constant Term 
  • Y(t-p) = Previous Observations
  • Epsilon(t-p) = Previous lagged residuals errors 
  • Eplisolon(t) = Residual errors at time t

The equation of the ARIMA models is generalized according to the order of the p,d and q of the model and the above equations are used as the general form of the equations, which finally makes the model’s specific equation. 

Now let us discuss the p,d and q parameters.

What does the p, d, and q in the ARIMA model mean?

In ARIMA models, the p,d, and q parameters are important parameters that affect the performance of the model. 

  • p is the order of the AR model or the autoregression, which represents the relationship between the current and the past observations. 
  • q is the order of the MA model which represents the relationship between the current observations and the past errors or residuals. 
  • d is the order of differencing or the differencing term, which signifies the differencing that is gioing to be applied to the dataset.

Now let us discuss the process of choosing the right order with ARIMA models.

Selecting the Right Order for ARIMA Models

As we discussed above that the ARIMA models can be written as ARIMA(p,d,q) where the p,d, and q represent the order of autoregression, differencing, and moving averages. This order is very important while forecasting with the ARIMA models, as small changes in this order can directly affect the performance of the model. 

Selecting the Right Order for ARIMA Models

The right and optimum order should be selected before training the ARIMA model to achieve an accurate and efficient model. 

The process for doing the same is quite simple, here we will take a range of some of the values for p,d, and q, and then we will run a loop-like system where all the combinations of the p,d, and q values will be tried, and the ASRIMA models will be fitted ion the same. 

For each combination, the metric or the AIC value will be calculated, which helps select the best-fit combination of the op,d, and q values for the dataset. Here lower the AIC or metric value, the higher the performance of the model with a good combination of p,d, and q values. 

Let us now try to implement the same with a code example; here, we will use a sample dataset with 100 rows containing a time series dataset, on which the loop with different combinations of p,d, and q values will be run.

Now let us take a dataset from Kaggle and train an ARIMA model on that., which will clear the idea about the complete process of model building with ARIMA.

Building the ARIMA Time Series Model in Python

Building the ARIMA Time Series Model in Python

Now let us take a code example to understand the complete process. Here we will use an Air passenger dataset from Kaggle

Here we will use an ARIMA model to fit the dataset, and the best order of the p,d, and q will be found with the help of running a loop with all possible combinations. 

The above code trains an ARIMA model with the given dataset, and the output forecasted values can be seen in the below image.

arima forecast result

However, there are some limitations of the ARIAM models here; the ARIMA model fails badly; let us discuss that in the next section.

Limitations of ARIMA Models 

  1. Stationarity: The ARIMA model assumes the data to be stationary, and hence it is one of the biggest limitations of ARIMA models where the data needs to be converted into stationary form before using the ARIMA models. 
  2. Linearity: The ARIMA model can identify the relationship between variables but only the linear relationship, and it struggles with capturing the nonlinear relationship between the data and dependent variables. 
  3. Outliers: The ARIMA models are very sensitive to outliers, and hence in case of outliers present in the dataset, the model performs very poorly. 
  4. Short-Term Forecasting: ARIMA models are generally preferred for short-term forecasting only; in the case of forecasting for very long periods, the model performs poorly, and the model's performance declines with the length of the forecasting period. 

Let us now discuss the extension of the ARIMA models, which re-used where doers the classic ARIMA models fail.

Advantages and disadvantages of choosing the ARIMA Model


  1. Applicability: The ARIMA models are one of the most widely used models, which can be applied to almost any time series forecasting problem. 
  2. Flexibility: The ARIMA models are flexible enough and can be used flexibly with the help of tuning the order with p,d, and q parameters. 
  3. Accuracy: The ARIMA models are the most accurate models for non-seasonal short-term predictions. 
  4. Easy: The ARIMA models are one of the easiest models in the time series, which is very easy to understand and interpret. 


  1. Long-term Predictions: The ARIMA models can not be used for long-term predictions; they are only preferred fro short-term periods. 
  2. Assumptions: The ARIMA model assumes the data to have a linear relationship between past and current observations, which limits the use of ASRIMA models. 
  3. Anomalies: The ARIMA models are very sensitive to anomalies or outliers which affect the performance of the model very badly. 
  4. Seasonability: The ARIMA models can not be used with the seasonal data, limiting the use of the models for many cases. 

Extensions of ARIMA Models 

There are some other time series forecasting algorithms that are the extension of the ARIMA models. 

  1. SARIMA (Seasonal ARIMA): SARIMA is one of the most famous extensions of the ARIMA models, which is mainly used when there is a seasonality present in the dataset. It is considered the ARIMA model in case of seasonality and performance better than the ARIMA models. 
  2. ARIMAX (ARIMA exogenous variable): ARIMAX is a type of ARIMA model which are used when there are multiple independent variables present in the dataset that directly affect the values or the observations of the dependent variables in time series. 
  3. SARIMAX (Seasonal SARIMA): It is a kind of extension of the ASRIMA models, which includes the exogenous variables with stationarity. It is used in the case of seasonal data, where there are multiplier-independent variables present in the data set. 
  4. VAR or Autoregression: VAR is a type of model that is used in the case of multiple time series variables. Here the VAR models can simultaneously model the multiple variables of the time series data. 
  5. Fractional ARIMA: It is a type of ARIAM model where fractional differencing is allowed. In the case of long-term forecasting or long-term dependencies of the time series variables, the standard differencing may not help, and hence in such cases, the fractional ARIMA can be used. 

There are some best practices that can be considered while working with the ARIMA model to enhance the performance and efficiency of the model. 

Best Practices to Use ARIMA Models Efficiently 

There are multiple time series algorithms that are used with a different dataset that works efficiently. However, the ARIMA models can also be used efficiently by following some of the practices. 

  1. Data Preprocessing: Data preprocessing is one of the core steps while building a model. It should be performed well in order to get an accurate and reliable model. 
  2. Model Parameters: The appropriate best-fit order (p,d,q) should be selected as per the AIC score for the ARIMA models to get the best possible performing model. 
  3. Model Evaluation: Once the model has been trained, use some performance metrics such as MAE, MSE, or RMSE in order to evaluate the performance of the model on the unseen data and modify the model accordingly. 
  4. Residual Analysis: The model’s residuals should be analyzed after training the same. The distribution plots, PDF plots, and values should be analyzed to check for the residuals' no autocorrelations and normal distribution. 
  5. Consider External Features: Sometimes, other factors outside of the data may affect the target variables and which should be selected for the information of the model. In such cases, variants like ARIMAX or SARIMAX can be used to include exogenous variables. 


In the expansive realm of time series forecasting, ARIMA models hold a distinguished place, offering an intricate blend of autoregressive (AR) and moving average (MA) processes. Over the course of this article, we've journeyed through the underlying mechanics of ARIMA, elucidating the mathematical equations that give life to this powerful method. 

From its foundational principles to the nuanced task of determining the optimal p, d, q values, with hands-on code examples. We've endeavoured to paint a comprehensive picture. Moreover, our exploration extended to address both the strengths and limitations of ARIMA, ensuring a balanced perspective for our readers.

But beyond the technicalities, our aim has always been clear: to demystify ARIMA for both newcomers and those looking to strengthen their understanding. We hope that as you close this tab or bookmark this page, you carry with you not just knowledge but confidence. A renewed zeal to harness ARIMA's capabilities in your next forecasting endeavor. 

For every data enthusiast, beginner or seasoned, this guide stands as a testament to the magic and precision of ARIMA models. Until our next data-driven adventure, may your forecasts be accurate and insights profound!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) On ARIMA

1. What is ARIMA?

 ARIMA stands for AutoRegressive Integrated Moving Average. It's a popular statistical method for time series forecasting.

2. What components make up the ARIMA model?

 ARIMA consists of three components: AR (AutoRegressive), I (Integrated), and MA (Moving Average).

3. What does the "Integrated" in ARIMA mean?

 Integrated refers to the process of differencing the data to make it stationary, which is a prerequisite for ARIMA modeling.

4. When should I use ARIMA for forecasting?

 ARIMA is suitable for time series data that displays a consistent trend or seasonality and is stationary or can be made stationary through differencing.

5. How do I determine the ARIMA parameters (p, d, q)?

 The parameters can be estimated using techniques like the ACF (Autocorrelation Function) and PACF (Partial Autocorrelation Function) plots.

6. Can ARIMA handle seasonality?

 While basic ARIMA can't handle seasonality, its variant, Seasonal ARIMA (or SARIMA), is designed to model seasonal patterns.

7. How is ARIMA different from other time series forecasting methods?

 ARIMA relies on the linear relationships and structure of the data, whereas methods like Exponential Smoothing or Prophet might handle non-linear trends or multiple seasonality better.

8. Does ARIMA provide point forecasts or interval forecasts?

 While ARIMA primarily provides point forecasts, it can also be used to generate prediction intervals, indicating the uncertainty around forecasts.

9. What software or programming languages support ARIMA modeling?

 ARIMA can be implemented in various software packages, including Python (with the `statsmodels` library) and R (with the `forecast` package).

10. Is ARIMA suitable for all time series datasets?

 No, ARIMA might not be the best choice for time series with high volatility, non-linear trends, or non-continuous data points.

11. How do I evaluate the accuracy of my ARIMA forecasts?

 Common metrics include Mean Absolute Error (MAE), Mean Squared Error (MSE), and Root Mean Squared Error (RMSE).

12. Can ARIMA be combined with other forecasting methods?

 Yes, ARIMA predictions can be combined with other models, techniques, or domain knowledge to refine or enhance forecasting results.

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