loading page

Auroral Image Classification with Deep Neural Networks
  • +1
  • Andreas Kvammen,
  • Kristoffer Wickstrøm,
  • Derek McKay,
  • Noora Partamies
Andreas Kvammen
University of Tromsø - The Arctic University of Norway

Corresponding Author:andreas.kvammen@uit.no

Author Profile
Kristoffer Wickstrøm
University of Tromsø - The Arctic University of Norway
Author Profile
Derek McKay
NORCE Norwegian Research Centre AS
Author Profile
Noora Partamies
The University Centre in Svalbard
Author Profile


Results from a study of automatic aurora classification using machine learning techniques are presented. The aurora is the manifestation of physical phenomena in the ionosphere-magnetosphere environment. Automatic classification of of auroral images from the Arctic and Antarctic is therefore an attractive tool for developing auroral statistics and for supporting scientists to study auroral images in an objective, organized and repeatable manner. Although previous studies have presented tools for detecting aurora, there has been a lack of tools for classifying aurora into subclasses with a high precision (>90%). This work considers seven auroral subclasses; breakup, colored, arcs-bands, discrete, patchy, edge and clear-faint. Five different deep neural network architectures have been tested along with the well known classification algorithms; k nearest neighbor (KNN) and a support vector machine (SVM). A set of clean nighttime color auroral images, without ambiguous auroral forms, moonlight, twilight, clouds etc., were used for training and testing. The deep neural networks generally outperformed the KNN and SVM methods, and the ResNet-50 architecture achieved the highest performance with an average classification precision of 92%. Although the results indicate that high precision aurora classification is an attainable objective using deep neural networks, it is stressed that a common consensus of the auroral morphology and the criteria for each class needs to be established before classification of ambiguous images can be readily achieved.
Oct 2020Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics volume 125 issue 10. 10.1029/2020JA027808