Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
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IBM and NASA’s AI Innovations: Enhancing Weather Forecasting and Climate Resilience


IBM and NASA’s AI Innovations: Enhancing Weather Forecasting and Climate Resilience
IBM has recently unveiled new initiatives that leverage its geospatial AI technologies, including a geospatial foundation model developed in partnership with NASA, to address climate issues. These initiatives include studying urban heat islands in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), reforestation efforts in Kenya, and climate resilience in the United Kingdom (UK).

IBM is furthering its AI model strategy by developing, training, refining, and open-sourcing foundation models. These models, which are not limited to natural language but also include geospatial applications, can be used for various tasks and can transfer information from one context to another.

These models are trained on geospatial data like satellite images and offer a unique opportunity to tackle climate change. Unlike conventional AI models designed for specific tasks, geospatial foundation models use satellite and weather data to create knowledge representations from vast amounts of climate-relevant data. This facilitates the rapid and streamlined discovery of environmental insights and solutions. These models can also be refined and applied across numerous areas related to climate change, from flood detection to fire scars.

Alessandro Curioni, IBM Fellow and Vice President, Accelerated Discovery at IBM, stated, “Climate change is a real and urgent issue that we must address in new and efficient ways, including using the most advanced AI technologies available today.” He added, “AI foundation models that use geospatial data can revolutionize our approach because they allow us to better understand, prepare for, and address the many climate-related events affecting our planet’s health in a way and at a speed never seen before. We hope these technologies can help speed up the development and application of solutions for a safer and healthier planet for future generations.”

In the UAE, IBM is analyzing urban heat islands. If greenhouse gas emissions continue at high levels, many cities will likely face disruptive and excessive heat waves by the end of this century. To keep cities livable, it’s crucial to accurately map and address rising heat levels.

IBM and the Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) are leading an innovative research effort to apply foundation models to map urban heat islands, areas with significantly higher temperatures than their surroundings. This research specifically uses a refined version of IBM’s geospatial foundation model to understand the urban environment in Abu Dhabi and how the UAE’s landscape influences the formation of urban heat islands.

So far, the model has contributed to initiatives that have successfully reduced the heat island effects in the region by over 3oC (5.4 F). In the future, the model is anticipated to continue offering unique insights that guide the creation of urban design strategies aimed at mitigating urban heat stress in evolving climates.

"Our collaboration with IBM marks a groundbreaking effort to utilize foundational AI models in analyzing and identifying solutions to urban heat islands for Abu Dhabi and parts of the UAE, a region which is particularly affected by climate change. This research underscores the vital role of AI in tackling global issues, emphasizing the urgency of continued exploration and innovation. By harnessing the power of AI, we are not merely addressing challenges; we are proactively shaping solutions for a sustainable future. In a world confronted by unprecedented challenges, MBZUAI stands at the forefront of pioneering research in AI, recognizing the transformative power it holds," said Professor Tim Baldwin, MBZUAI Acting Provost.

In December 2022, Kenya’s President H.E. D.R William Ruto launched the National Tree Growing and Restoration Campaign with the goal of planting 15 billion trees across Kenya by 2032. This includes areas of critically affected water towers, forested landscapes that hold water and source many rivers throughout Kenya. Despite water towers accounting for about three quarters of the nation’s water resources, deforestation is leading to increasing water scarcity in these regions.

IBM and the Kenyan government’s office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change Ali Mohamed have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support the National Tree Growing and Restoration Campaign through a new “adopt-a-water-tower” initiative. This initiative will be powered by a new digital platform that uses IBM’s geospatial foundation model to allow users to track and visualize tree planting and tree growing activities in specific water tower areas. Local developers can also create refined models that combine the IBM geospatial model with their own localized information to monitor forest restoration and measure above-ground biomass such as sequestered carbon. This will ultimately drive efforts to plant more trees across Kenya’s water tower regions.

“We acknowledge the crucial role of technology in maximizing our potential, optimizing resource use, and capitalizing on opportunities. It serves as a means to ensure that we utilize our resources most effectively to propel our grassroots-driven economic transformation agenda. Our partnership with IBM enables us to leverage artificial intelligence and geospatial data to further our climate goals".

"These goals include planting 15 billion trees, revitalizing our crucial water towers, fostering increased collaboration with the private sector to promote a just energy transition for communities around our forests. At the same time, this collaboration will enhance our ability to participate equitably in the carbon economy. The potential of this collaboration extends beyond our borders and can be replicated in other nations seeking to enhance their forest cover while also improving the economic and health well-being of their communities.," said Mr. Hussein Mohamed, the Spokesperson for the President.

Enhancing climate resilience across the United Kingdom In 2021, IBM and the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Hartree Centre partnered to explore the application of next-generation technologies including AI from IBM to address climate risk and resilience across the UK.

Now, IBM, STFC, and Royal HaskoningDHV, a global consulting engineering company, have collaborated to establish a new service, using IBM’s geospatial AI tools, that aims to automate and scale climate risk assessment processes for organizations. The service’s first use case will focus on the aviation sector, where IBM’s geospatial AI will assess impacts of weather-related issues, including: • Short-term impact of extreme weather on aviation operations. • Long-term impact of climate change on future airport operations and infrastructure.

Furthermore, IBM and STFC Hartree Centre, through the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation, are advancing a new area of research with Dark Matter Labs and Lucidminds, as part of their TreesAI project. The research project will apply IBM geospatial AI technologies to their Green Urban Scenarios (GUS) model to map urban locations where trees can be planted to help alleviate the risk of surface water flooding. The effort will eventually inform an end-to-end digital planning platform for urban planners, project developers, and green urban investors across the UK.

"There has never been a more important time to prepare for the challenges posed by climate change, both from an industrial and societal perspective. Here at STFC's Hartree Centre we're excited to be working with IBM and Royal HaskoningDHV, using advanced AI technologies to help the aviation industry prepare for climate risks, and become more resilient against the effects of extreme weather. Equally, our collaboration with IBM and Dark Matter Labs on the TreesAI project through our HNCDI programme will enable smarter decisions based on accurately predicting and managing flood risk, which is critical to all future city planning. Advanced AI technologies are key driver in enabling us to build a more resilient world against the adverse impacts of climate change," said Kate Royse, Director at STFC's Hartree Centre.

"Operational and strategic planners in every company require a clear understanding of how weather and climate-related incidents affect their business operations. By harnessing AI and geospatial data, we will super charge our climate risk assessments on a global scale," said Djeevan Schiferli, Climate Intelligence Business Strategist, at Royal Haskoning DHV.

"Over 300,000 properties are at risk of surface-water flooding. Without action, this figure is set to almost double by 2055 due to climate change and urbanisation. Through our collaboration with IBM and STFC, we have been able to observe how trees contribute to reducing surface water flooding risks across the city under different scenarios, using GUS. This has enabled us and our partners to make the business case for tree planting and maintenance. After a successful pilot in Glasgow, we are now looking for further locations to embed this powerful data-enabled decision-making tool," said Chloe Treger, TreesAI UK Lead.

In addition to their initial commitment to develop and implement a geospatial foundation model, IBM and NASA have announced their collaboration on a new, separate AI foundation model for weather and climate. This model, which utilizes AI technology from IBM, aims to enhance the precision, speed, and cost-effectiveness of weather forecasting and other climate applications. The model’s potential applications extend beyond forecasting to include super-resolution downscaling, identifying conditions conducive to wildfires, and predicting meteorological phenomena. IBM researchers will collaborate with NASA domain experts to train and validate the model.

IBM’s latest initiatives and its participation at COP28 are a continuation of the company’s longstanding commitment to environmental action, research, and advocacy. IBM established its first environmental policy over 50 years ago, in 1971, and articulated a formal stance on climate change in 2007. IBM is a founding member of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment and the Climate Leadership Council. Through initiatives like the IBM Sustainability Accelerator, the company supports communities that are vulnerable to climate change and other environmental issues.