Infallible weather forecasts thanks to artificial intelligence?

This article is from the Special issue of Sciences et Avenir n ° 199 dated October-November 2019.

“I do not exclude that in the long term, in ten to twenty years, we will be able to have automatic forecasts, without human supervision, affirms Marc Pontaud, director of research at Météo France. But for now, we see AI as a tool to make the forecaster’s job easier. ” To take advantage of this, five new researchers have joined the National Center for Meteorological Research (CNRM) in Toulouse, in support of the ten or so scientists who were already working on the issue.

Gain two to three hours of anticipation

Forecasting the weather involves using simulation models, necessarily imperfect representations of the behavior of the atmosphere. Since the end of the 2000s, several development scenarios have been developed. Those that converge the most form the average scenario, the more likely. “AI can help us deal with extreme scenarios, which are unlikely to occur but can have a high impact, such as a storm or hailstorm,” explains Marc Pontaud. Thus, the atmospheric observations and the model forecasts are crossed in the AI ​​mill from quarter to quarter hour. “Gaining two to three hours of anticipation on the event is decisive to protect people and property”, underlines the meteorologist.

A resolution of a few hundred meters

There are many future steps involving AI. “The state asks us to go as far as forecasting the impact, in other words, for example, to be able to specify whether there will be uprooted trees.” Storm reports, claims reports, town hall archives: the field of existing data on past events is immense. In real time, private weather stations connected to an internet box, instrumented cars or mobile phones equipped with pressure sensors can also be used. “We are targeting, within five to ten years, a resolution of a few hundred meters for our forecasts against 1.3 kilometers today, anticipates Marc Pontaud. But we will have to recover the data and process it. ” A work of Titan, seen the hurricane of data looming on the horizon.

By Cécile Cazenave

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