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### AI Outperforms Traditional Wind Forecasting for the First Time

AI models may soon enable more accurate forecasts with higher speed and lower cost.

An AI weather system named GraphCast, developed using Google DeepMind technology, has demonstrated superior performance in predicting global climate conditions up to 10 days ahead compared to traditional forecasting methods, as detailed in a study published in the journal Science. This advancement, highlighted by The Washington Post and Financial Times, signifies a potential shift towards more accurate future climate predictions.

In direct comparison with the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Prediction (ECMWF), GraphCast surpassed the existing conventional system in 90% of 1,380 metrics, encompassing variables such as temperature, pressure, wind speed, direction, and humidity across various atmospheric levels. Notably, GraphCast achieves these results swiftly, generating forecasts for multiple atmospheric parameters globally over a 10-day period in under a minute, as stated in the paper “Learning skillful medium-range global temperature forecasting.”

Utilizing a “graph neural network” machine learning framework trained on over four decades of historical ECMWF weather data, GraphCast operates on a Google TPU v4 cloud platform to analyze current and recent atmospheric conditions and produce extended projections efficiently. While this AI-driven approach enhances the speed and accuracy of meteorological predictions, it consumes more computational resources compared to traditional methods relying on supercomputers for numerical weather modeling based on physical equations.

Despite its notable successes, GraphCast exhibits limitations, such as its inability to outperform standard models in certain scenarios like the sudden intensification of Hurricane Otis, which made landfall in Acapulco with minimal advance warning. Global AI models currently lack the level of detail and granularity offered by traditional forecasting techniques due to inherent technological constraints, making them more suitable for analyzing localized weather phenomena.

The developers at Google DeepMind emphasize that GraphCast should be viewed as a supplementary tool to existing weather forecasting methodologies rather than a complete replacement. They acknowledge the extensive development and real-world testing that traditional forecasting methods have undergone over the years, offering capabilities that AI models have yet to fully explore.

Looking ahead, ECMWF plans to develop its AI system for weather forecasting, while the UK Met Office collaborates with the Alan Turing Institute to integrate a graph neural network into its climate modeling infrastructure. These initiatives reflect a concerted effort to leverage AI technology alongside established forecasting practices to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of weather predictions.

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Last modified: November 15, 2023
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