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Georg j. Mayr, David Plavcan, Laurence Armi, Andrew Elvidge, Branko Grisogono, Kristian Horvath, Peter Jackson, Alfred Neururer, Petra Seibert, James W. Steenburgh, Ivana Stiperski, Andrew Sturman, Željko Večenaj, Johannes Vergeiner, Simon Vosper, and Günther Zängl


Strong winds crossing elevated terrain and descending to its lee occur over mountainous areas worldwide. Winds fulfilling these two criteria are called foehn in this paper although different names exist depending on the region, the sign of the temperature change at onset, and the depth of the overflowing layer. These winds affect the local weather and climate and impact society. Classification is difficult because other wind systems might be superimposed on them or share some characteristics. Additionally, no unanimously agreed-upon name, definition, nor indications for such winds exist. The most trusted classifications have been performed by human experts. A classification experiment for different foehn locations in the Alps and different classifier groups addressed hitherto unanswered questions about the uncertainty of these classifications, their reproducibility, and dependence on the level of expertise. One group consisted of mountain meteorology experts, the other two of master’s degree students who had taken mountain meteorology courses, and a further two of objective algorithms. Sixty periods of 48 h were classified for foehn–no foehn conditions at five Alpine foehn locations. The intra-human-classifier detection varies by about 10 percentage points (interquartile range). Experts and students are nearly indistinguishable. The algorithms are in the range of human classifications. One difficult case appeared twice in order to examine the reproducibility of classified foehn duration, which turned out to be 50% or less. The classification dataset can now serve as a test bed for automatic classification algorithms, which—if successful—eliminate the drawbacks of manual classifications: lack of scalability and reproducibility.

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