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Dan Lu, Goutam Konapala, Scott L. Painter, Shih-Chieh Kao, and Sudershan Gangrade

Abstract

Hydrologic predictions at rural watersheds are important but also challenging due to data shortage. Long short-term memory (LSTM) networks are a promising machine learning approach and have demonstrated good performance in streamflow predictions. However, due to its data-hungry nature, most LSTM applications focus on well-monitored catchments with abundant and high-quality observations. In this work, we investigate predictive capabilities of LSTM in poorly monitored watersheds with short observation records. To address three main challenges of LSTM applications in data-scarce locations, i.e., overfitting, uncertainty quantification (UQ), and out-of-distribution prediction, we evaluate different regularization techniques to prevent overfitting, apply a Bayesian LSTM for UQ, and introduce a physics-informed hybrid LSTM to enhance out-of-distribution prediction. Through case studies in two diverse sets of catchments with and without snow influence, we demonstrate that 1) when hydrologic variability in the prediction period is similar to the calibration period, LSTM models can reasonably predict daily streamflow with Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency above 0.8, even with only 2 years of calibration data; 2) when the hydrologic variability in the prediction and calibration periods is dramatically different, LSTM alone does not predict well, but the hybrid model can improve the out-of-distribution prediction with acceptable generalization accuracy; 3) L2 norm penalty and dropout can mitigate overfitting, and Bayesian and hybrid LSTM have no overfitting; and 4) Bayesian LSTM provides useful uncertainty information to improve prediction understanding and credibility. These insights have vital implications for streamflow simulation in watersheds where data quality and availability are a critical issue.

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Sid-Ahmed Boukabara, Vladimir Krasnopolsky, Stephen G. Penny, Jebb Q. Stewart, Amy McGovern, David Hall, John E. Ten Hoeve, Jason Hickey, Hung-Lung Allen Huang, John K. Williams, Kayo Ide, Philippe Tissot, Sue Ellen Haupt, Kenneth S. Casey, Nikunj Oza, Alan J. Geer, Eric S. Maddy, and Ross N. Hoffman

Abstract

Promising new opportunities to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to the Earth and environmental sciences are identified, informed by an overview of current efforts in the community. Community input was collected at the first National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) workshop on “Leveraging AI in the Exploitation of Satellite Earth Observations and Numerical Weather Prediction” held in April 2019. This workshop brought together over 400 scientists, program managers, and leaders from the public, academic, and private sectors in order to enable experts involved in the development and adaptation of AI tools and applications to meet and exchange experiences with NOAA experts. Paths are described to actualize the potential of AI to better exploit the massive volumes of environmental data from satellite and in situ sources that are critical for numerical weather prediction (NWP) and other Earth and environmental science applications. The main lessons communicated from community input via active workshop discussions and polling are reported. Finally, recommendations are presented for both scientists and decision-makers to address some of the challenges facing the adoption of AI across all Earth science.

Open access
Yaling Liu, Dongdong Chen, Soukayna Mouatadid, Xiaoliang Lu, Min Chen, Yu Cheng, Zhenghui Xie, Binghao Jia, Huan Wu, and Pierre Gentine

Abstract

Soil moisture (SM) links the water and energy cycles over the land–atmosphere interface and largely determines ecosystem functionality, positioning it as an essential player in the Earth system. Despite its importance, accurate estimation of large-scale SM remains a challenge. Here we leverage the strength of neural network (NN) and fidelity of long-term measurements to develop a daily multilayer cropland SM dataset for China from 1981 to 2013, implemented for a range of different cropping patterns. The training and testing of the NN for the five soil layers (0–50 cm, 10-cm depth each) yield R2 values of 0.65–0.70 and 0.64–0.69, respectively. Our analysis reveals that precipitation and soil properties are the two dominant factors determining SM, but cropping pattern is also crucial. In addition, our simulations of alternative cropping patterns indicate that winter wheat followed by fallow will largely alleviate the SM depletion in most parts of China. On the other hand, cropping patterns of fallow in the winter followed by maize/soybean seem to further aggravate SM decline in the Huang-Huai-Hai region and southwestern China, relative to prevalent practices of double cropping. This may be due to their low soil porosity, which results in more soil water drainage, as opposed to the case that winter crop roots help maintain SM. This multilayer cropland SM dataset with granularity of cropping patterns provides an important alternative and is complementary to modeled and satellite-retrieved products.

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Yun Fan, Vladimir Krasnopolsky, Huug van den Dool, Chung-Yu Wu, and Jon Gottschalck

Abstract

Forecast skill from dynamical forecast models decreases quickly with projection time due to various errors. Therefore, post-processing methods, from simple bias correction methods to more complicated multiple linear regression-based Model Output Statistics, are used to improve raw model forecasts. Usually, these methods show clear forecast improvement over the raw model forecasts, especially for short-range weather forecasts. However, linear approaches have limitations because the relationship between predictands and predictors may be nonlinear. This is even truer for extended range forecasts, such as Week 3-4 forecasts.

In this study, neural network techniques are used to seek or model the relationships between a set of predictors and predictands, and eventually to improve Week 3-4 precipitation and 2-meter temperature forecasts made by the NOAA NCEP Climate Forecast System. Benefitting from advances in machine learning techniques in recent years, more flexible and capable machine learning algorithms and availability of big datasets enable us not only to explore nonlinear features or relationships within a given large dataset, but also to extract more sophisticated pattern relationships and co-variabilities hidden within the multi-dimensional predictors and predictands. Then these more sophisticated relationships and high-level statistical information are used to correct the model Week 3-4 precipitation and 2-meter temperature forecasts. The results show that to some extent neural network techniques can significantly improve the Week 3-4 forecast accuracy and greatly increase the efficiency over the traditional multiple linear regression methods.

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Andrew E. Mercer, Alexandria D. Grimes, and Kimberly M. Wood

Abstract

Tropical cyclone (TC) track forecasts have improved in recent decades while intensity forecasts, particularly predictions of rapid intensification (RI), continue to show low skill. Many statistical methods have shown promise in predicting RI using environmental fields, although these methods rely heavily upon supervised learning techniques such as classification. Advances in unsupervised learning techniques, particularly those that integrate nonlinearity into the class separation problem, can improve discrimination ability for difficult tasks such as RI prediction. This study quantifies separability between RI and non-RI environments for 2004–16 Atlantic Ocean TCs using an unsupervised learning method that blends principal component analysis with k-means cluster analysis. Input fields consisted of TC-centered 1° Global Forecast System analysis (GFSA) grids (170 different variables and isobaric levels) for 3605 TC samples and five domain sizes. Results are directly compared with separability offered by operational RI forecast predictors for eight RI definitions. The unsupervised learning procedure produced improved separability over operational predictors for all eight RI definitions, five of which showed statistically significant improvement. Composites from these best-separating GFSA fields highlighted the importance of mid- and upper-level relative humidity in identifying the onset of short-term RI, whereas long-term, higher-magnitude RI was generally associated with weaker absolute vorticity. Other useful predictors included optimal thermodynamic RI ingredients along the mean trajectory of the TC. The results suggest that the orientation of a more favorable thermodynamic environment relative to the TC and midlevel vorticity magnitudes could be useful predictors for RI.

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Imme Ebert-Uphoff and Kyle Hilburn

Abstract

The method of neural networks (aka deep learning) has opened up many new opportunities to utilize remotely sensed images in meteorology. Common applications include image classification, e.g., to determine whether an image contains a tropical cyclone, and image-to-image translation, e.g., to emulate radar imagery for satellites that only have passive channels. However, there are yet many open questions regarding the use of neural networks for working with meteorological images, such as best practices for evaluation, tuning, and interpretation. This article highlights several strategies and practical considerations for neural network development that have not yet received much attention in the meteorological community, such as the concept of receptive fields, underutilized meteorological performance measures, and methods for neural network interpretation, such as synthetic experiments and layer-wise relevance propagation. We also consider the process of neural network interpretation as a whole, recognizing it as an iterative meteorologist-driven discovery process that builds on experimental design and hypothesis generation and testing. Finally, while most work on neural network interpretation in meteorology has so far focused on networks for image classification tasks, we expand the focus to also include networks for image-to-image translation.

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Kyle A. Hilburn, Imme Ebert-Uphoff, and Steven D. Miller

Abstract

The objective of this research is to develop techniques for assimilating GOES-R series observations in precipitating scenes for the purpose of improving short-term convective-scale forecasts of high-impact weather hazards. Whereas one approach is radiance assimilation, the information content of GOES-R radiances from its Advanced Baseline Imager saturates in precipitating scenes, and radiance assimilation does not make use of lightning observations from the GOES Lightning Mapper. Here, a convolutional neural network (CNN) is developed to transform GOES-R radiances and lightning into synthetic radar reflectivity fields to make use of existing radar assimilation techniques. We find that the ability of CNNs to utilize spatial context is essential for this application and offers breakthrough improvement in skill compared to traditional pixel-by-pixel based approaches. To understand the improved performance, we use a novel analysis method that combines several techniques, each providing different insights into the network’s reasoning. Channel-withholding experiments and spatial information–withholding experiments are used to show that the CNN achieves skill at high reflectivity values from the information content in radiance gradients and the presence of lightning. The attribution method, layerwise relevance propagation, demonstrates that the CNN uses radiance and lightning information synergistically, where lightning helps the CNN focus on which neighboring locations are most important. Synthetic inputs are used to quantify the sensitivity to radiance gradients, showing that sharper gradients produce a stronger response in predicted reflectivity. Lightning observations are found to be uniquely valuable for their ability to pinpoint locations of strong radar echoes.

Open access
John L. Cintineo, Michael J. Pavolonis, Justin M. Sieglaff, Anthony Wimmers, Jason Brunner, and Willard Bellon

Abstract

Intense thunderstorms threaten life and property, impact aviation, and are a challenging forecast problem, particularly without precipitation-sensing radar data. Trained forecasters often look for features in geostationary satellite images such as rapid cloud growth, strong and persistent overshooting tops, U- or V-shaped patterns in storm-top temperature (and associated above-anvil cirrus plumes), thermal couplets, intricate texturing in cloud albedo (e.g., “bubbling” cloud tops), cloud-top divergence, spatial and temporal trends in lightning, and other nuances to identify intense thunderstorms. In this paper, a machine-learning algorithm was employed to automatically learn and extract salient features and patterns in geostationary satellite data for the prediction of intense convection. Namely, a convolutional neural network (CNN) was trained on 0.64-μm reflectance and 10.35-μm brightness temperature from the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) and flash-extent density (FED) from the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) on board GOES-16. Using a training dataset consisting of over 220 000 human-labeled satellite images, the CNN learned pertinent features that are known to be associated with intense convection and skillfully discriminated between intense and ordinary convection. The CNN also learned a more nuanced feature associated with intense convection—strong infrared brightness temperature gradients near cloud edges in the vicinity of the main updraft. A successive-permutation test ranked the most important predictors as follows: 1) ABI 10.35-μm brightness temperature, 2) ABI GLM flash-extent density, and 3) ABI 0.64-μm reflectance. The CNN model can provide forecasters with quantitative information that often foreshadows the occurrence of severe weather, day or night, over the full range of instrument-scan modes.

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Noah D. Brenowitz, Tom Beucler, Michael Pritchard, and Christopher S. Bretherton

Abstract

Neural networks are a promising technique for parameterizing subgrid-scale physics (e.g., moist atmospheric convection) in coarse-resolution climate models, but their lack of interpretability and reliability prevents widespread adoption. For instance, it is not fully understood why neural network parameterizations often cause dramatic instability when coupled to atmospheric fluid dynamics. This paper introduces tools for interpreting their behavior that are customized to the parameterization task. First, we assess the nonlinear sensitivity of a neural network to lower-tropospheric stability and the midtropospheric moisture, two widely studied controls of moist convection. Second, we couple the linearized response functions of these neural networks to simplified gravity wave dynamics, and analytically diagnose the corresponding phase speeds, growth rates, wavelengths, and spatial structures. To demonstrate their versatility, these techniques are tested on two sets of neural networks, one trained with a superparameterized version of the Community Atmosphere Model (SPCAM) and the second with a near-global cloud-resolving model (GCRM). Even though the SPCAM simulation has a warmer climate than the cloud-resolving model, both neural networks predict stronger heating/drying in moist and unstable environments, which is consistent with observations. Moreover, the spectral analysis can predict that instability occurs when GCMs are coupled to networks that support gravity waves that are unstable and have phase speeds larger than 5 m s−1. In contrast, standing unstable modes do not cause catastrophic instability. Using these tools, differences between the SPCAM-trained versus GCRM-trained neural networks are analyzed, and strategies to incrementally improve both of their coupled online performance unveiled.

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Christina Kumler-Bonfanti, Jebb Stewart, David Hall, and Mark Govett

Abstract

Extracting valuable information from large sets of diverse meteorological data is a time-intensive process. Machine-learning methods can help to improve both speed and accuracy of this process. Specifically, deep-learning image-segmentation models using the U-Net structure perform faster and can identify areas that are missed by more restrictive approaches, such as expert hand-labeling and a priori heuristic methods. This paper discusses four different state-of-the-art U-Net models designed for detection of tropical and extratropical cyclone regions of interest (ROI) from two separate input sources: total precipitable water output from the Global Forecast System (GFS) model and water vapor radiance images from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES). These models are referred to as International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (IBTrACS)-GFS, Heuristic-GFS, IBTrACS-GOES, and Heuristic-GOES. All four U-Nets are fast information extraction tools and perform with an ROI detection accuracy ranging from 80% to 99%. These are additionally evaluated with the Dice and Tversky intersection-over-union (IoU) metrics, having Dice coefficient scores ranging from 0.51 to 0.76 and Tversky coefficients ranging from 0.56 to 0.74. The extratropical cyclone U-Net model performed 3 times as fast as the comparable heuristic model used to detect the same ROI. The U-Nets were specifically selected for their capabilities in detecting cyclone ROI beyond the scope of the training labels. These machine-learning models identified more ambiguous and active ROI missed by the heuristic model and hand-labeling methods that are commonly used in generating real-time weather alerts, having a potentially direct impact on public safety.

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