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Can AI help predict the future of Earth?

AI offers additional possibilities and greater accuracy for climate models.

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Computer simulations that scientists use to understand the evolution of the Earth’s climate offer a wealth of information to public officials and corporations planning for the future. However, climate models — no matter how complex or computationally intensive — do contain some degree of uncertainty. Addressing this uncertainty is proving increasingly important as decision-makers are asking more complex questions and looking to smaller scales.

To improve climate simulations, scientists are looking to the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). AI has offered profound insights in fields from materials science to manufacturing, and climate researchers are excited to explore how AI can be used to revolutionize how the Earth system, and especially its water cycle, can be simulated in order to dramatically improve our understanding and representation of the real world.  In particular, AI offers the potential to dramatically increase the accuracy of predictions down to the scales of interest to scientists, and even stakeholders focused on designing, financing and deploying equitable climate solutions to America’s most disadvantaged communities.

Motivated by this opportunity, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is launching a comprehensive workshop: Artificial Intelligence for Earth System Predictability (AI4ESP). After the collection of more than 150 white papers from the scientific community, AI4ESP is kicking into high gear by hosting a workshop beginning October 25. The workshop will include 17 sessions over a six-week period designed to create a new scientific community that marries climate research with artificial intelligence, applied math and supercomputing.

“Earth system predictability refers to the intersection of climate with hydrology, ecology, infrastructure and human activities,” says Nicki Hickmon, an Argonne scientist, director of operations for the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility and the lead for the AI4ESP workshop.

By linking researchers in Earth system predictability and computer sciences, AI4ESP seeks to create a paradigm shift in simulating the Earth system. AI4ESP seeks to inspire a new generation of AI algorithms specifically aimed at Earth system predictability.

According to Hickmon, continuous improvements will enhance the ability of current simulations to provide deeper insights into community-scale issues and those involving extreme weather, potentially allowing stakeholders a better grasp of the uncertainties that surround such events.

“AI for climate is still in its infancy,” says Hickmon. ​“However, it is still essential that we explore the potential of AI to see how it can better inform our models and prepare us for the future.” 

Click here to see the agenda and register for the workshop, which will open with an address by Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk. The public is welcome to attend any of the open sessions. Some components of the workshop are invitation-only in order to gather the required materials for the workshop report.

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