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Reto Stauffer, Georg J. Mayr, Markus Dabernig, and Achim Zeileis

Abstract

Results of many atmospheric science applications are processed graphically. Visualizations are a powerful tool to display and communicate data. However, to create effective figures, a wide scope of challenges has to be considered. Therefore, this paper offers several guidelines with a focus on colors. Colors are often used to add additional information or to code information. Colors should (i) allow humans to process the information rapidly, (ii) guide the reader to the most important information, and (iii) represent the data appropriately without misleading distortion. The second and third requirements necessitate tailoring the visualization and the use of colors to the specific purpose of the graphic. A standard way of deriving color palettes is via transitions through a particular color space. Most of the common software packages still provide default palettes derived in the red–green–blue (RGB) color model or “simple” transformations thereof. Confounding perceptual properties such as hue and brightness make RGB-based palettes more prone to misinterpretation. Switching to a color model corresponding to the perceptual dimensions of human color vision avoids these problems. The authors show several practically relevant examples using one such model, the hue–chroma–luminance (HCL) color model, to explain how it works and what its advantages are. Moreover, the paper contains several tips on how to easily integrate this knowledge into software commonly used by the community. The guidelines and examples should help readers to switch over to the alternative HCL color model, which will result in a greatly improved quality and readability of visualized atmospheric science data for research, teaching, and communication of results to society.

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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

Abstract

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.

Open access