Abstract

In recent years, the field of artificial intelligence has contributed significantly to the science of meteorology, most notably in the now familiar form of expert systems. Expert systems have focused on rules or heuristics by establishing, in computer code, the reasoning process of a weather forecaster predicting, for example, thunderstorms or fog. In addition to the years of effort that goes into developing such a knowledge base is the time-consuming task of extracting such knowledge and experience from experts. In this paper, the induction of rules directly from meteorological data is explored-a process called machine learning. A commercial machine learning program called C4.5, is applied to a meteorological problem, forecasting maritime fog, for which a reliable expert system has been previously developed. Two detasets are used: 1) weather ship observations originally used for testing and evaluating the expert system, and 2) buoy measurements taken off the coast of California. For both datasets, the rules produced by C4.5 are reasonable and make physical sense, thus demonstrating that an objective induction approach can reveal physical processes directly from data. For the ship database, the machine-generated rules are not as accurate as those from the expert system but are still significantly better than persistence forecasts. For the buoy data, the forecast accuracies are very high, but only slightly superior to persistence. The results indicate that the machine learning approach is a viable tool for developing meteorological expertise, but only when applied to reliable data with sufficient cases of known outcome. In those instances when such databases are available, the use of machine learning can provide useful insight that otherwise might take considerable human analysis to produce.

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