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Ryan Lagerquist, Jebb Q. Stewart, Imme Ebert-Uphoff, and Christina Kumler


Predicting the timing and location of thunderstorms (“convection”) allows for preventive actions that can save both lives and property. We have applied U-nets, a deep-learning-based type of neural network, to forecast convection on a grid at lead times up to 120 min. The goal is to make skillful forecasts with only present and past satellite data as predictors. Specifically, predictors are multispectral brightness-temperature images from the Himawari-8 satellite, while targets (ground truth) are provided by weather radars in Taiwan. U-nets are becoming popular in atmospheric science due to their advantages for gridded prediction. Furthermore, we use three novel approaches to advance U-nets in atmospheric science. First, we compare three architectures—vanilla, temporal, and U-net++—and find that vanilla U-nets are best for this task. Second, we train U-nets with the fractions skill score, which is spatially aware, as the loss function. Third, because we do not have adequate ground truth over the full Himawari-8 domain, we train the U-nets with small radar-centered patches, then apply trained U-nets to the full domain. Also, we find that the best predictions are given by U-nets trained with satellite data from multiple lag times, not only the present. We evaluate U-nets in detail—by time of day, month, and geographic location—and compare them to persistence models. The U-nets outperform persistence at lead times ≥ 60 min, and at all lead times the U-nets provide a more realistic climatology than persistence. Our code is available publicly.

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

Free access
Jebb Q. Stewart, C. David Whiteman, W. James Steenburgh, and Xindi Bian

This paper investigates the diurnal evolution of thermally driven plain–mountain winds, up- and down-valley winds, up- and downslope winds, and land–lake breezes for summer fair weather conditions in four regions of the Intermountain West where dense wind networks have been operated. Because of the diverse topography in these regions, the results are expected to be broadly representative of thermally driven wind climates in the Intermountain West. The regions include the Wasatch Front Valleys of northern Utah, the Snake River Plain of Idaho, the southern Nevada basin and range province, and central Arizona. The analysis examines wind characteristics, including the regularity of the winds and interactions of the four types of thermally driven winds, using meteorological data from the University of Utah's MesoWest network.

In general, on fair weather days, winds in all four regions exhibit a consistent direction from day to day at a given hour. A measure of this wind consistency is defined. The nighttime hours exhibit a generally higher consistency than the daytime hours. Lower consistency during the day–night and night–day transition periods reflects day-to-day variations in the timing of wind system reversals. Thermally driven circulations are similar in the four regions, but the Wasatch Front Valleys are influenced by lake breezes from the adjacent Great Salt Lake, the Snake River Plain is influenced by along-plain circulations and localized outflow from the Central Idaho Mountains, and winds in both southern Nevada and central Arizona are influenced by plain–mountain circulations associated with regional-scale contrasts in elevation and surface heating.

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Amy McGovern, Ann Bostrom, Phillip Davis, Julie L. Demuth, Imme Ebert-Uphof, Ruoying He, Jason Hickey, David John Gagne II, Nathan Snook, Jebb Q. Stewart, Christopher Thorncroft, Philippe Tissot, and John K. Williams


We introduce the National Science Foundation (NSF) AI Institute for Research on Trustworthy AI in Weather, Climate, and Coastal Oceanography (AI2ES). This AI institute was funded in 2020 as part of a new initiative from the NSF to advance foundational AI research across a wide variety of domains. To date AI2ES is the only NSF AI institute focusing on environmental science applications. Our institute focuses on developing trustworthy AI methods for weather, climate, and coastal hazards. The AI methods will revolutionize our understanding and prediction of high-impact atmospheric and ocean science phenomena and will be utilized by diverse, professional user groups to reduce risks to society. In addition, we are creating novel educational paths, including a new degree program at a community college serving underrepresented minorities, to improve workforce diversity for both AI and environmental science.

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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.

Open access