Amy McGovern is one of those rare people who moved to Oklahoma for the weather.
Which isn’t to say she personally enjoys the tornadoes that regularly tear through the state or the routine pummeling with golf-ball-size hail. “I’m on roof number three in 15 years,” she laughs.
But that severe weather is her reason for coming: A computer scientist who formerly worked in robotics, she was recruited by the University of Oklahoma’s school of meteorology. And last fall, with $20 million from the National Science Foundation, she launched one of the country’s foremost institutes applying artificial intelligence to weather and climate. As new techniques in machine learning become ubiquitous and yield startling applications, such as recognizing faces or mimicking human writing, her center is part of a new push to see if they can read the clouds.
Dr. McGovern’s institute, which also includes six other universities and a variety of private partners, is part of that effort. In addition to developing artificial-intelligence methods to improve prediction of extreme weather and coastal oceanography, they are working to ensure the tools they develop are viewed as trustworthy by the human forecasters who will ultimately use them. “We’re testing the whole cycle,” she says. “We will actually save lives and save property.”
AI is already making existing prediction methods more efficient and contributing to increases in the speed and accuracy of forecasting, and it shows promise for tracking the paths of severe weather like tornadoes and hail with greater precision. The technology isn’t going to replace traditional weather forecasting but rather augment and strengthen existing methods.
Credit: Google News