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Find hot spots

Even random spatial patterns exhibit some degree of clustering. In addition, our eyes and brains naturally try to find patterns even when none exist. Consequently, it can be difficult to know if the patterns in your data are the result of real spatial processes at work or just the result of random chance. This is why researchers and analysts use statistical methods like Find Hot Spots (Getis-Ord Gi*) to quantify spatial patterns. When you do find statistically significant clustering in your data, you have valuable information. Knowing where and when clustering occurs can provide important clues about the processes promoting the patterns you're seeing. Knowing that residential burglaries, for example, are consistently higher in particular neighborhoods is vital information if you need to design effective prevention strategies, allocate scarce police resources, initiate neighborhood watch programs, authorize in-depth criminal investigations, or identify potential suspects.

  1. Click the layer in the Contents panel within which you would like to find hot spots.
  2. Click the Hot Spots button in the Analyze section of the map ribbon.
  3. Choose whether you would like to find clusters of point densities or attribute values:
    • By point densities: This option will only be available for point layers. Choosing this option will construct a fishnet mesh and place it over the points in the analysis layer. The number of points falling within each fishnet square will then be counted and analyzed. Only fishnet squares with at least one point will be analyzed. Any statistically significant hot spots (red) in the results layer reflect spatial clusters of fishnet squares with high count values. Similarly, statistically significant cold spots (blue) reflect spatial clusters of fishnet squares with very low count values. Note: The results layer is not a density surface, but rather it indicates locations where high or low point counts are too clustered to be the result of random processes.
    • By attribute values: If you choose this option you will be required to select an Analysis column from your spreadsheet. With the analysis field you provide, the Find Hot Spots tool will create a layer showing you areas with statistically significant clusters of high values (hot spots: red) and low values (cold spots: blue).
  4. The Hot Spot tool will suggest a name for the new layer. If you would like to change the layer name, change the contents of the Layer name input box.
  5. If you would like to save a copy of the result layer to ArcGIS, ensure the Save the results box is checked. Otherwise, uncheck the box. Click Run analysis.

The output from the Find Hot Spots tool is a map layer. For the points or the areas in this result layer, the darker the red or blue colors appear, the more confident you can be that clustering is not the result of random chance. Points or areas displayed using beige, on the other hand, are not part of any statistically significant cluster; the spatial pattern associated with these features could very likely be the result of random chance. Sometimes the results of your analysis will indicate that there aren't any statistically significant clusters at all. This is important information to have. When a spatial pattern is random, we have no clues about underlying causes. In these cases, all of the features in the results layer will be beige. When we do find statistically significant clustering, however, the locations where clustering occurs are important clues about what might be creating the clustering. Finding statistically significant spatial clustering of cancer associated with certain environmental toxins, for example, can lead to policies and actions designed to protect people. Similarly finding cold spots of childhood obesity associated with schools promoting afterschool sports programs can provide strong justification for encouraging these types of programs more broadly.

For technical details on how the Hot Spot tool works, see How Hot Spot Analysis Works.

For more information about spatial statistics, see our Spatial Statistics Resources.