Forecasting the weather has always been a challenge. Over the years many methods have been developed and refined to track clouds and notice changes in the atmosphere. Despite these advancements, errors in forecasting still occur – playing into the cliche that the weather will likely be sunny if the weatherman says it will rain.
But now AI is stepping in, and could potentially fix all of these prediction errors – thanks to researchers at the University of Almeria, Penn State and AccuWeather.
The amount of data available on the weather is massive, but it’s usefulness comes down to noticing patterns and future movement. The artificial intelligence system takes advantage of satellite images by tracking cloud rotation – and is capable of noticing subtle details that would usually go unseen. For example; noticing cloud formations in the shape of a ‘comma’, which are often associated with severe weather.
The team says not only can the system can spot comma shaped clouds accurately, but it can also notice these clouds before they are fully formed – sometimes better than human methods of detection. This means the method can not only give better insight into future cloud formations, but remove human error from the equation.
To achieve this, researchers went through the process of analysing 50,000 existing satellite images and marking out these comma shaped clouds they noticed. Using a form of machine learning, this information was then taught to the AI system, which was tasked with identifying and marking these cloud formations once it could comprehend their shape.
According to the team, this method has proven highly successful so far; the artificial intelligence has a 99% accuracy when detecting comma shaped clouds. It’s ability to detect other forms of severe weather is also being developed, with a current accuracy of 64% – far outperforming other methods of detection.
While the computer system is still being expanded in its capabilities, assisting human forecasters and the ability to predict dangerous weather will be advantageous for everyone.