AI & Robotics

Sun or rain? AI could improve our weather forecasts

When looking at his weather app, //next columnist Markus Sekulla has often wondered why its weather forecasts seem to be so rarely accurate. At least the prospects for what new technologies like AI could do for this use case in the future seem promising, even: sunny.

A few years ago, I was invited to a wedding. My good friend Adam had rented a big house on AirBnB for the occasion and wanted to celebrate in its garden. But would the weather cooperate? Already three weeks before the big day, he constantly checked the weather forecast. Wasted time, as it turned out: Three days before the event, everything was still "set for rain" - but when the most beautiful day in the lives of the bride and groom finally dawned, the two lovers were able to say "I do" in glorious sunshine.

Change of scene, to Austria: I learned from hotel owners in beautiful Carinthia that one of the biggest problems for tourism there is Apple's weather app. This is because the mountains and the not-so-distant sea mean that there are always heavy, but fortunately only short, showers in summer. The app, however, shows only one symbol for the whole day: Thunderstorm. Many room cancellations or rebookings are the result - an annoying misunderstanding for the hoteliers.

But a remedy is in sight. After all, many of the world's most powerful computers are busy calculating weather forecasts and are getting better and better at long-term predictions. According to US media reports, Google also got involved in determining the weather some time ago (see button below). And it did so with an AI developed specifically for this purpose - specialising in short-term analyses. Back in 2017, Google started feeding a neural network with data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to Jason Hickey, senior software engineer at Google, the results are quite impressive.

Such a further solution for weather forecasts would definitely be welcome - especially, of course, in view of the recent severe weather catastrophe in large parts of Germany. According to experts, such extreme situations are likely to become more frequent in the future due to climate change, so we should be happy about any help that provides accurate results and helps to mitigate similar crises.

Text: Markus Sekulla