Pandas DataFrame: Calculate the expanding count of non NaN observations

Updated: February 21, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


In data analysis and manipulation tasks, especially when dealing with time series or panel data, understanding trends and patterns in data completeness over time is crucial. Pandas, a powerful and widely used Python library for data manipulation and analysis, offers versatile functions to handle such scenarios efficiently. One of these useful functions is the ability to calculate the expanding count of non-NaN (Not a Number) observations in a DataFrame. This capability can be particularly valuable when you want to keep track of how much information accumulates as you move forward through ordered data.

This tutorial will dive deep into how to compute the expanding count of non-NaN observations in a Pandas DataFrame. We will start with basics and gradually move to more advanced examples to showcase the depth of possibilities that this functionality can unlock.

Getting Started with Pandas

Before jumping into expanding counts, ensure that you have Pandas installed in your Python environment. If not, you can install it using pip:

pip install pandas

Basic Expanding Count

First, let’s look at a straightforward example. We will create a DataFrame with some NaN values and calculate the expanding count of non-NaN observations.

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np

df = pd.DataFrame({'A': [1, np.nan, 3, 4, np.nan, 6, 7],
                   'B': [np.nan, 2, np.nan, 4, 5, 6, np.nan]})

# Use the `expanding()` method followed by `count()`
df_expanding_count = df.apply(lambda x: x.expanding().count())


     A    B
0  1.0  0.0
1  1.0  1.0
2  2.0  1.0
3  3.0  2.0
4  3.0  3.0
5  4.0  4.0
6  5.0  4.0

Detailed Insights

When using expanding().count(), we’re essentially asking Pandas to calculate the cumulative count of non-NaN values for each column starting from the first row onward. This action is akin to an ‘expanding window’ operation, where the size of the window increases one observation at a time, encompassing all previous data upto the current row.

Adding Conditions

Enhancing our understanding further, it’s possible to add conditions or filters to the expanding count to concentrate on specific data or scenarios.

df['A_greater_than_3'] = df['A'].apply(lambda x: x if x > 3 else np.nan)
df_expanding_count_with_condition = df['A_greater_than_3'].expanding().count()


0    0.0
1    0.0
2    0.0
3    1.0
4    1.0
5    2.0
6    3.0

Handling Time Series Data

In cases involving time series data, this functionality becomes even more critical. Let’s take a dataset where dates play a significant role and illustrate how you can apply the expanding count operation taking the time dimension into account.

date_rng = pd.date_range(start='1/1/2020', end='12/31/2020', freq='M')
df_time = pd.DataFrame(date_rng, columns=['date'])
df_time['data'] = np.random.randint(0, 100, size=(len(date_rng)))

df_time.set_index('date', inplace=True)
df_time_expanding_count = df_time['data'].expanding().count()

Visualizing Expanding Counts

Visualization can significantly enhance the interpretation of expanding counts, especially when dealing with large datasets or complex patterns. Using matplotlib, another popular Python library for creating static, animated, and interactive visualizations, you can graph your expanding counts.

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

plt.title('Expanding Count of Non-NaN Observations Over Time')

Advanced Usage: Custom Functions

For more complex scenarios, you might need to calculate expanding counts based on custom criteria or functions. Pandas’ apply() method combined with expanding() provides the flexibility to apply custom functions across dataframes. Here’s an example of how one might track the expanding count of observations that exceed a certain threshold.

def custom_condition(series):
    return series[series > 50].count()

df_custom = pd.DataFrame({'A': np.random.randint(0, 100, 100)})
df_custom_expanding_count = df_custom['A'].apply(custom_condition).expanding().count()


This tutorial delved into the flexible and dynamic capabilities of Pandas for calculating the expanding count of non-NaN observations across dataframes. From simple count operations to more complex, condition-based computations, the expanding method offers a powerful tool for data analysis, especially in understanding the accumulation of data points over time. As illustrated, adapting this method to various needs helps in uncovering insights into data completeness, trends, and behaviors, which are essential in making informed decisions and in-depth data analysis.