MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Meteorologists such as our First Alert Storm Team use computer models to help them forecast the weather. The University of South Alabama along with four other universities received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct research using machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve forecasting the weather.
South’s portion of the grant is almost $800,000 and will be use to teach the forecast models how to more accurately predict local weather such as sea breezes, weather events that could impact agriculture in our region and large scale weather such as hurricanes.
Dr. Sytske Kimball, the chair of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of South Alabama said, “So if we can improve targeted forecasting….like conditions in this particular area are going be such that people should evacuate, whereas over here, people can just shelter in place. That would make a HUGE difference in recovery and emergency management.”
This project will train the models by feeding hundreds and thousands of past weather events and data into what are called neural networks. A neural network is one of the systems (algorithms) used in machine learning. This system is made up of many parts and each part focuses on learning how to better forecast different weather parameters (temperature, humidity, winds, pressure….etc) by recognizing patterns from past weather events/patterns.
Dr. Tom Johnsten, Associate Professor for the School of Computing at South, “Each one will learn a particular weather parameter to predict. So we might have one neural network that would learn how to predict the temperature, or the humidity, pressure, wind speed and so forth.”
The students in the school of computing and meteorology at South will also be able to participate in this research which includes gathering data from and maintaining the network of weather stations in our area.