Robust bivariate error detection in skewed data with application to historical radiosonde winds

Ying Sun, Amanda S. Hering, Joshua M. Browning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The global historical radiosonde archives date back to the 1920s and contain the only directly observed measurements of temperature, wind, and moisture in the upper atmosphere, but they contain many random errors. Most of the focus on cleaning these large datasets has been on temperatures, but winds are important inputs to climate models and in studies of wind climatology. The bivariate distribution of the wind vector does not have elliptical contours but is skewed and heavy-tailed, so we develop two methods for outlier detection based on the bivariate skew-t (BST) distribution, using either distance-based or contour-based approaches to flag observations as potential outliers. We develop a framework to robustly estimate the parameters of the BST and then show how the tuning parameter to get these estimates is chosen. In simulation, we compare our methods with one based on a bivariate normal distribution and a nonparametric approach based on the bagplot. We then apply all four methods to the winds observed for over 35,000 radiosonde launches at a single station and demonstrate differences in the number of observations flagged across eight pressure levels and through time. In this pilot study, the method based on the BST contours performs very well.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e2431
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 17 2017


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