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  • Author or Editor: David John Gagne II x
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Ryan Lagerquist, Amy McGovern, Cameron R. Homeyer, David John Gagne II, and Travis Smith


This paper describes the development of convolutional neural networks (CNN), a type of deep-learning method, to predict next-hour tornado occurrence. Predictors are a storm-centered radar image and a proximity sounding from the Rapid Refresh model. Radar images come from the Multiyear Reanalysis of Remotely Sensed Storms (MYRORSS) and Gridded NEXRAD WSR-88D Radar dataset (GridRad), both of which are multiradar composites. We train separate CNNs on MYRORSS and GridRad data, present an experiment to optimize the CNN settings, and evaluate the chosen CNNs on independent testing data. Both models achieve an area under the receiver-operating-characteristic curve (AUC) well above 0.9, which is considered to be excellent performance. The GridRad model achieves a critical success index (CSI) of 0.31, and the MYRORSS model achieves a CSI of 0.17. The difference is due primarily to event frequency (percentage of storms that are tornadic in the next hour), which is 3.52% for GridRad but only 0.24% for MYRORSS. The best CNN predictions (true positives and negatives) occur for strongly rotating tornadic supercells and weak nontornadic cells in mesoscale convective systems, respectively. The worst predictions (false positives and negatives) occur for strongly rotating nontornadic supercells and tornadic cells in quasi-linear convective systems, respectively. The performance of our CNNs is comparable to an operational machine-learning system for severe weather prediction, which suggests that they would be useful for real-time forecasting.

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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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