Advances in self-organizing maps for their application to compositional data

  • Josep A. Martín-FernándezEmail author
  • Mark A. Engle
  • Leslie F. Ruppert
  • Ricardo A. Olea
Original Paper


A self-organizing map (SOM) is a non-linear projection of a D-dimensional data set, where the distance among observations is approximately preserved on to a lower dimensional space. The SOM arranges multivariate data based on their similarity to each other by allowing pattern recognition leading to easier interpretation of higher dimensional data. The SOM algorithm allows for selection of different map topologies, distances and parameters, which determine how the data will be organized on the map. In the particular case of compositional data (such as elemental, mineralogical, or maceral abundance), the sample space is governed by Aitchison geometry and extra steps are required prior to their SOM analysis. Following the principle of working on log-ratio coordinates, the simplicial operations and the Aitchison distance, which are appropriate elements for the SOM, are presented. With this structure developed, a SOM using Aitchison geometry is applied to properly interpret elemental data from combustion products (bottom ash, fly ash, and economizer fly ash) in a Wyoming coal-fired power plant. Results from this effort provide knowledge about the differences between the ash composition in the coal combustion process.


Aitchison distance Coal combustion products Isometric logratio Proportions Simplex 



This work has been supported by the project “CODA-RETOS” (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness; Ref: MTM2015-65016-C2-1-R) and the project “Compositional Data Analysis Related to Energy Resources Modeling” (“Salvador de Madariaga” program; “Fulbright” distinction; MECD; Ref.: PRX16/00258). Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. We are grateful to C.Ö. Karacan (USGS) and G. Mateu-Figueras (U. de Girona) for their insightful review of a previous version of the paper.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and its text is not subject to copyright protection in the United States; however, its text may be subject to foreign copyright protection 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer Science, Applied Mathematics and StatisticsUniversity of GironaGironaSpain
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyRestonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of Texas at El PasoEl PasoUSA

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