EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Foehn Wind Analysis using Unsupervised Deep Anomaly Detection

Tobias Milz1, Marte Hofsteenge2, Marwan Katurji3, and Varvara Vetrova1
Tobias Milz et al.
  • 1University of Canterbury, Applied Mathematics and Statistics, New Zealand (
  • 2University of Otago, School of Geography, New Zealand
  • 3University of Canterbury, School of Earth and Environment, New Zealand

Foehn winds are accelerated, warm and dry winds that can have significant environmental impacts as they descend into the lee of a mountain range. For example, in the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica, foehn events can cause ice and glacial melt and destabilise ice shelves, which if lost, resulting in a rise in sea level. Consequently, there is a strong interest in a deeper understanding of foehn winds and their meteorological signatures. Most current automatic detection methods rely on rule-based methodologies that require static thresholds of meteorological parameters. However, the patterns of foehn winds are hard to define and differ between alpine valleys around the world. Consequently, data-driven solutions might help create more accurate detection and prediction methodologies. 

State-of-the-art machine learning approaches to this problem have shown promising results but follow a supervised learning paradigm. As such, these approaches require accurate labels, which for the most part, are being created by imprecise static rule-based algorithms. Consequently, the resulting machine-learning models are trained to recognise the same static definitions of the foehn wind signatures. 

In this paper, we introduce and compare the first unsupervised machine-learning approaches for detecting foehn wind events. We focus on data from the Mc Murdo Dry Valleys as an example, however, due to the unsupervised nature of these approaches, our solutions can recognise a more dynamic definition of foehn wind events and are therefore, independent of the location. The first approach is based on multivariate time-series clustering, while the second utilises a deep autoencoder-based anomaly detection method to identify foehn wind events. Our best model achieves an f1-score of 88%, matching or surpassing previous machine-learning methods while providing a more flexible and inclusive definition of foehn events. 

How to cite: Milz, T., Hofsteenge, M., Katurji, M., and Vetrova, V.: Foehn Wind Analysis using Unsupervised Deep Anomaly Detection, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-10256,, 2023.