Dynamical Tests of a Deep-Learning Weather Prediction Model

Gregory J. Hakim aDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

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Sanjit Masanam bDepartment of Physics, University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

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Abstract

Global deep-learning weather prediction models have recently been shown to produce forecasts that rival those from physics-based models run at operational centers. It is unclear whether these models have encoded atmospheric dynamics, or simply pattern matching that produces the smallest forecast error. Answering this question is crucial to establishing the utility of these models as tools for basic science. Here we subject one such model, Pangu-Weather, to a set of four classical dynamical experiments that do not resemble the model training data. Localized perturbations to the model output and the initial conditions are added to steady time-averaged conditions, to assess the propagation speed and structural evolution of signals away from the local source. Perturbing the model physics by adding a steady tropical heat source results in a classical Matsuno–Gill response near the heating, and planetary waves that radiate into the extratropics. A localized disturbance on the winter-averaged North Pacific jet stream produces realistic extratropical cyclones and fronts, including the spontaneous emergence of polar lows. Perturbing the 500hPa height field alone yields adjustment from a state of rest to one of wind–pressure balance over ∼6 hours. Localized subtropical low pressure systems produce Atlantic hurricanes, provided the initial amplitude exceeds about 4 hPa, and setting the initial humidity to zero eliminates hurricane development. We conclude that the model encodes realistic physics in all experiments, and suggest it can be used as a tool for rapidly testing a wide range of hypotheses.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This is an Author Accepted Manuscript distributed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Gregory J. Hakim, ghakim@uw.edu

Abstract

Global deep-learning weather prediction models have recently been shown to produce forecasts that rival those from physics-based models run at operational centers. It is unclear whether these models have encoded atmospheric dynamics, or simply pattern matching that produces the smallest forecast error. Answering this question is crucial to establishing the utility of these models as tools for basic science. Here we subject one such model, Pangu-Weather, to a set of four classical dynamical experiments that do not resemble the model training data. Localized perturbations to the model output and the initial conditions are added to steady time-averaged conditions, to assess the propagation speed and structural evolution of signals away from the local source. Perturbing the model physics by adding a steady tropical heat source results in a classical Matsuno–Gill response near the heating, and planetary waves that radiate into the extratropics. A localized disturbance on the winter-averaged North Pacific jet stream produces realistic extratropical cyclones and fronts, including the spontaneous emergence of polar lows. Perturbing the 500hPa height field alone yields adjustment from a state of rest to one of wind–pressure balance over ∼6 hours. Localized subtropical low pressure systems produce Atlantic hurricanes, provided the initial amplitude exceeds about 4 hPa, and setting the initial humidity to zero eliminates hurricane development. We conclude that the model encodes realistic physics in all experiments, and suggest it can be used as a tool for rapidly testing a wide range of hypotheses.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This is an Author Accepted Manuscript distributed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Gregory J. Hakim, ghakim@uw.edu
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