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Research using AI to better predict severe weather

hail 1.jpg
Posted at 5:37 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 19:31:24-04

NORMAN, Okla. — A researcher at the University of Oklahoma is working to improve weather prediction through artificial intelligence software.

Artificial intelligence is already used in many ways including inside our smart phones. Now researchers are studying how it can be used to help human weather forecasters predict severe weather events faster and more accurately.

Dr. Amy McGovern at the University of Oklahoma is researching AI software which will take large data sets from severe weather events to find patterns that will help them predict future events.

“For the Oklahoma severe weather, we are looking at predicting hail, tornadoes, wind and lightning and taking the data that is relevant and then give you trustworthy outputs that tell you what the probability of that event is," Dr. McGovern said. "So it could be over the next 0-1 hour which is now casting. It could be that you’re looking at tomorrows probability.”

By developing this software, she says they want to augment the skills of forecasters not replace them.

"In real time the forecasters cannot possibly pay attention to 12 or 16 screens at once and be able to help identify the critical parts,” Dr. McGovern said. “If you’ve got more algorithms behind the scene that say ‘Hey, you could ignore this one. It’s probably not going to do anything. You need to focus on this one. It’s probably going to do something.’ That can help.”

The National Science Foundation is funding the research over the next five years. So far, they are about a year and a half into the research.

“There’s a lot more that we are doing than just severe weather. We’re looking at winter weather. We’re looking at sub-seasonal predictions. Can you about a month out predict whether there’s going to be severe rainfall for example? We're looking at some coastal oceanography applications including saving endangered sea turtles and harmful algal blooms. I mean there’s a lot that were doing,” said Dr. McGovern.

Initially, the National Weather Service will benefit from the AI software, but Dr. McGovern says partners like The Weather Channel are also interested in using the product. She says it could also lead the development of an app that the public could use in the future.

Dr. McGovern anticipates within the next couple of years the software for hail and tornado prediction will be implemented but some of the other prediction products will take a little longer.

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