As a general introduction to what I can expect from spatial statistics I searched for a webpage that would define what spatial statistics are, what kinds of questions they can answer, and how they are different from a-spatial statistics.  I found a document entitled “Understanding Spatial Statistics in ArcGIS 9” (http://www.utsa.edu/lrsg/Teaching/EES6513/ESRI_ws_SpatialStatsSlides.pdf) that answers these questions.

The document begins by answering the question “What are spatial statistics?”  The author defines them as “exploratory tools that help you measure spatial processes, spatial distributions, and spatial relationships.”

There are two categories of spatial measurements:

1)      Identifying characteristics of a distribution.  This first category of measurements is descriptive, answers questions like: where is the center, or how are the features distributed around the center?

2)      Quantifying geographic pattern ie are the data random, clustered, or evenly dispersed.

Spatial statistics are different from a-spatial or non-spatial statistics in that spatial statistics include some measure of space in there mathematics.  In most cases, neighboring observations are considered in the statistics regarding a focal observation or global measurement.

The document describes a few examples of problems or questions addressed using spatial statistics available in ArcGIS:

1) How does the distribution of Dengue Fever for a village in India change during the first three weeks after the outbreak?

2) Does bobcat movement between preferred habitat areas coincide with natural land features such as valleys, rivers, or ridgelines?

3) Are there persistent areas in the United States where people are either dying earlier, or living longer, than the average American?