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  • Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society x
  • The 1st NOAA Workshop on Leveraging AI in the Exploitation of Satellite Earth Observations & Numerical Weather Prediction x
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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


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.

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Imme Ebert-Uphoff and Kyle Hilburn


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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Sid-Ahmed Boukabara, Vladimir Krasnopolsky, Jebb Q. Stewart, Eric S. Maddy, Narges Shahroudi, and Ross N. Hoffman


Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques have had significant recent successes in multiple fields. These fields and the fields of satellite remote sensing and NWP share the same fundamental underlying needs, including signal and image processing, quality control mechanisms, pattern recognition, data fusion, forward and inverse problems, and prediction. Thus, modern AI in general and machine learning (ML) in particular can be positively disruptive and transformational change agents in the fields of satellite remote sensing and NWP by augmenting, and in some cases replacing, elements of the traditional remote sensing, assimilation, and modeling tools. And change is needed to meet the increasing challenges of Big Data, advanced models and applications, and user demands. Future developments, for example, SmallSats and the Internet of Things, will continue the explosion of new environmental data. ML models are highly efficient and in some cases more accurate because of their flexibility to accommodate nonlinearity and/or non-Gaussianity. With that efficiency, ML can help to address the demands put on environmental products for higher accuracy, for higher resolution—spatial, temporal, and vertical, for enhanced conventional medium-range forecasts, for outlooks and predictions on subseasonal to seasonal time scales, and for improvements in the process of issuing advisories and warnings. Using examples from satellite remote sensing and NWP, it is illustrated how ML can accelerate the pace of improvement in environmental data exploitation and weather prediction—first, by complementing existing systems, and second, where appropriate, as an alternative to some components of the NWP processing chain from observations to forecasts.

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Amy McGovern, Ryan Lagerquist, David John Gagne II, G. Eli Jergensen, Kimberly L. Elmore, Cameron R. Homeyer, and Travis Smith


This paper synthesizes multiple methods for machine learning (ML) model interpretation and visualization (MIV) focusing on meteorological applications. ML has recently exploded in popularity in many fields, including meteorology. Although ML has been successful in meteorology, it has not been as widely accepted, primarily due to the perception that ML models are “black boxes,” meaning the ML methods are thought to take inputs and provide outputs but not to yield physically interpretable information to the user. This paper introduces and demonstrates multiple MIV techniques for both traditional ML and deep learning, to enable meteorologists to understand what ML models have learned. We discuss permutation-based predictor importance, forward and backward selection, saliency maps, class-activation maps, backward optimization, and novelty detection. We apply these methods at multiple spatiotemporal scales to tornado, hail, winter precipitation type, and convective-storm mode. By analyzing such a wide variety of applications, we intend for this work to demystify the black box of ML, offer insight in applying MIV techniques, and serve as a MIV toolbox for meteorologists and other physical scientists.

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