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A method is provided for classifying finite-duration signals with narrow instantaneous bandwidth and dynamic instantaneous frequency (IF). In this method, events are partitioned into nonoverlapping segments, and each segment is modeled as a linear chirp, forming a piecewise-linear IF model. The start frequency, chirp rate, signal energy, and noise energy are estimated in each segment. The resulting sequences of frequency and rate features for each event are classified by evaluating their likelihood under the probability density function (PDF) corresponding to each narrowband class hypothesis. The class-conditional PDFs are approximated using continuous-state hidden Gauss-Markov models (HGMMs), whose parameters are estimated from labeled training data. Previous HGMM algorithms are extended by dynamically weighting the output covariance matrix by the ratio of the estimated signal and noise energies from each segment. This covariance weighting discounts spurious features from segments with low signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), making the algorithm more robust in the presence of dynamic noise levels and fading signals. The classification algorithm is applied in a simulated three-class cross-validation experiment, for which the algorithm exhibits percent correct classification greater than 97% as low as -7 dB SNR.