Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-2024-76
https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-2024-76
Submitted as: development and technical paper
 | 
27 May 2024
Submitted as: development and technical paper |  | 27 May 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal GMD.

Autoencoder-based feature extraction for the automatic detection of snow avalanches in seismic data

Andri Simeon, Cristina Pérez-Guillén, Michele Volpi, Christine Seupel, and Alec van Herwijnen

Abstract. Monitoring snow avalanche activity is essential for operational avalanche forecasting and the successful implementation of mitigation measures to ensure safety in mountain regions. To facilitate and automate the monitoring process, avalanche detection systems equipped with seismic sensors can provide a cost-effective solution. Still, automatically differentiating avalanche signals from other sources in seismic data remains challenging, mainly due to the complexity of seismic signals generated by avalanches, the complex signal transmission through the ground, the relatively rare occurrence of avalanches, and the presence of multiple sources in the continuous seismic data. One approach to automate avalanche detection is by applying machine learning methods. So far, research in this area has mainly focused on extracting standard domain-specific signal attributes in the time and frequency domains as input features for statistical models. In this study, we propose a novel application of deep learning autoencoder models for the automatic and unsupervised extraction of features from seismic recordings. These new features are then fed into classifiers for discriminating snow avalanches. To this end, we trained three Random forest classifiers based on different feature extraction approaches. The first set of 32 features was automatically extracted from the time-series signals by an autoencoder consisting of convolutional layers and a recurrent long short-term memory unit. The second autoencoder applies a series of fully connected layers to extract 16 features from the spectrum of the signals. As a benchmark, a third random forest was trained with typical waveform, spectral and spectrogram attributes used to discriminate seismic events. We extracted all these features from 10-second windows of the seismograms recorded with an array of five seismometers installed in an avalanche test site located above Davos, Switzerland. The database used to train and test the models contained 84 avalanches and 828 noise (unrelated to avalanches) events recorded during the winter seasons of 2020–2021 and 2021–2022. Finally, we assessed the performance of each classifier, compared the results, and proposed different aggregation methods to improve the predictive performance of the developed seismic detection algorithms. The classifiers achieved an avalanche f1-score of 0.61 (seismic attributes), 0.49 (temporal autoencoder) and 0.60 (spectral autoencoder) and avalanche recall of 0.68, 0.71 and 0.71, respectively. Overall, the macro f1-score ranged from 0.70 (temporal autoencoder) to 0.78 (seismic attributes). After applying a post-processing step to event-based predictions, the avalanche recall of the three models significantly increased, reaching values between 0.82 and 0.91. The developed approach could be potentially used as an operational, near-real-time avalanche detection system. Yet, the relatively high number of false alarms still needs further implementation of the current automated seismic classification algorithms to be used as unique methods to detect avalanches effectively.

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Andri Simeon, Cristina Pérez-Guillén, Michele Volpi, Christine Seupel, and Alec van Herwijnen

Status: open (until 22 Jul 2024)

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Andri Simeon, Cristina Pérez-Guillén, Michele Volpi, Christine Seupel, and Alec van Herwijnen

Model code and software

Autoencoder-based feature extraction for the automatic detection of snow avalanches in seismic data Andri Simeon https://gitlabext.wsl.ch/simeonan/code-egu-paper

Andri Simeon, Cristina Pérez-Guillén, Michele Volpi, Christine Seupel, and Alec van Herwijnen

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Short summary
Avalanche seismic detection systems are key for forecasting, but distinguishing avalanches from other seismic sources remains challenging. We propose novel autoencoder models to automatically extract features and compare them with standard seismic attributes. These features are then used to classify avalanches and noise events. The autoencoder feature classifiers have the highest sensitivity to detect avalanches, while the standard seismic classifier performs better overall.