Detecting Directionality in Time Series

Directionality can be seen in many stationary time series from various disciplines, but it is overlooked when fitting linear models with Gaussian errors. Moreover, we cannot rely on distinguishing directionality by comparing a plot of a time series in time order with a plot in reverse time order. In general, a statistical measure is required to detect and quantify directionality. There are several quite different qualitative forms of directionality, and we distinguish: rapid rises followed by slow recessions; rapid increases and rapid decreases from the mean followed by slow recovery toward the mean; directionality above or below some threshold; and intermittent directionality. The first objective is to develop a suite of statistical measures that will detect directionality and help classify its nature. The second objective is to demonstrate the potential benefits of detecting directionality. We consider applications from business, environmental science, finance, and medicine. Time series data are collected from many processes, both natural and anthropogenic, by a wide range of organizations, and directionality can easily be monitored as part of routine analysis. We suggest that doing so may provide new insights to the processes.