Some notes on AHP in earth sciences


Dasapta Erwin Irawan, Yuniarti Ulfa, Deny Juanda Puradimaja, and B. Kombaitan

Author’s statement

This blog post is the initial version of an article which is currently further development. The final version may or may not be similar with this blog post. This blog post is the authors’ effort to self archive their work.


The Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) is a mixed method facilitates decision-making by incorporating multiple variables and expert judgments. It involves pairwise comparisons and the derivation of priority scales. AHP is useful for comparing alternatives and finding optimal solutions, and it has been applied in various fields. AHP offers advantages such as systematic evaluation, incorporation of expert judgments, and versatility. In earth sciences, AHP can be applied for groundwater potential assessment, hydrogeological parameter analysis, land use planning, and more. However, AHP has limitations, including reliance on expert judgments and assumptions of independence between criteria and alternatives. Despite these drawbacks, AHP provides valuable insights when used in conjunction with other methods.

The basics of AHP

The Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) is a mathematical method that facilitates decision-making processes by incorporating multiple variables and expert judgments (Saaty, 2008). It involves pairwise comparisons and the derivation of priority scales based on the judgments of experts (Saaty, 2008). AHP includes both rating and comparison methods (Saaty, 1994). It is a useful technique for comparing alternatives and finding optimal solutions (Usman et al., 2017). AHP has been applied in various fields, such as agriculture, business, engineering, and medicine (Acharya et al., 2019; Lee et al., 2013; Kumar et al., 2022; Ranjbar et al., 2016). It has also been used for selecting database management systems and assessing supply risks (Ebrahimi & Taheri, 2015; Wang & Hsueh, 2009). The AHP is a widely used multi-criteria decision-making technique that assists decision-makers in various industries (Ebrahimi & Taheri, 2015). It provides a structured approach to decision-making and helps choose the best option among multiple alternatives (Kumar et al., 2022).

The advantages of AHP

The Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) offers several advantages that make it a valuable tool for decision-making. Firstly, AHP allows decision-makers to systematically compare and evaluate multiple criteria and alternatives, providing a structured approach to decision-making Vaidya & Kumar (2006). This helps in identifying the most important factors and their relative priorities, leading to more informed and rational decisions (Saaty, 2008). Additionally, AHP incorporates expert judgments, ensuring that the decision-making process benefits from the knowledge and expertise of individuals with relevant experience (Saaty, 2008). Furthermore, AHP provides a flexible framework that can be applied to a wide range of decision-making problems in various fields, such as management, engineering, and renewable energy (Usman et al., 2017). Its versatility and ease of use have contributed to its extensive study and application over the years (Ho, 2008). Analytic Hierarchy Process offers a systematic and effective approach to decision-making, enabling decision-makers to make informed choices based on a comprehensive evaluation of criteria and alternatives.

Applications of AHP in earth sciences

AHP can be applied in earth sciences due to its versatility and ability to handle complex decision-making problems. AHP allows for the systematic evaluation and comparison of multiple criteria and alternatives, which is particularly useful in earth sciences where decisions often involve considering various factors and trade-offs (Saaty, 2008). It provides a structured framework for decision-making, enabling researchers and practitioners to prioritize and weigh different variables based on their relative importance (Saaty, 2008). Additionally, AHP incorporates expert judgments, which is valuable in earth sciences where expertise and domain knowledge play a crucial role (Dolan, 2008). The flexibility of AHP allows it to be combined with other methods and approaches, further enhancing its applicability in earth sciences. The Analytic Hierarchy Process offers a robust and systematic approach to decision-making in earth sciences, facilitating informed choices and supporting sustainable and evidence-based decision-making processes.

Various purposes of AHP in earth sciences

AHP can be applied in #EarthSciences for various purposes, such as:

  • groundwater potential assessment, hydrogeological parameter analysis, and land use planning. In studies related to groundwater potential zones, AHP has been used to integrate multiple thematic layers, such as geology, geomorphology, hydrology, and land use, to identify areas with high groundwater potential (Chatterjee & Dutta 2022; Pande et al., 2021; Baig et al., 2023; Rajesh et al., 2021).
  • AHP has also been employed in hydrogeological parameter assessment, where it helps in analyzing parameters like geology, rainfall, drainage density, slope, and soil to understand the characteristics of groundwater resources (Baig et al., 2023).
  • Additionally, AHP has been utilized in land use planning and site selection studies, where it aids in evaluating multiple criteria and making informed decisions (Alanbari et al., 2014).
  • The versatility of AHP allows it to be combined with other techniques like remote sensing and GIS to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of earth sciences applications (Allafta et al., 2020; Uc-Castillo et al., 2022). The Analytic Hierarchy Process provides a valuable framework for decision-making in earth sciences, enabling the integration of diverse data and criteria to support sustainable resource management and planning.

Some drawbacks of AHP

The Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) has some limitations when applied in earth science research. One drawback is that AHP relies heavily on expert judgments, which can introduce subjectivity and bias into the decision-making process (Fan et al., 2021).

  • The complex and nonlinear nature of earth systems poses challenges for accurately capturing and quantifying the relationships between different criteria and alternatives (Fan et al., 2021).
  • Additionally, AHP assumes that the criteria and alternatives are independent of each other, which may not always hold true in earth science research where interdependencies and feedback mechanisms are common (Biermann et al., 2010).
  • Furthermore, the application of AHP requires the availability of reliable and accurate data, which can be challenging to obtain in earth science studies due to the complexity and scale of the systems being analyzed (Guo et al., 2020).
    Despite these limitations, AHP can still provide valuable insights and support decision-making in earth science research when used in conjunction with other methods and approaches (Guo et al., 2020).


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