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AI: Weather forecasting

  • Article
  • The increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events have stressed the importance of weather forecasting
  • More unpredictable weather reduces the reliability of weather forecasting, with many negative economic and social impacts
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) could raise forecast accuracy, potentially saving lives and significant climate damages

A new asset in an era of extreme weather

The importance of weather forecasting

Weather forecasting predicts and monitors meteorological patterns. Accurate forecasts are crucial for public safety, health and livelihoods, as well as shipping, aviation and energy production. Forecasts are becoming ever more important as we enter an era of intensified extreme weather events and record-breaking temperatures – they are vital in helping to address challenges such as food insecurity and heat-related illness.

Extreme weather is costing the economy more each decade…

Since the 1970s, economic losses related to weather, climate and water hazards have totalled USD3.6trn, representing 74% of total economic losses from reported disasters. And costs are rising: over the next five years alone we expect a further USD771bn of losses in food and water shocks alone. It is not only the intensity but the unexpectedness of extreme weather events that makes them so damaging. Reliable forecasting is essential to help communities prepare and adapt adequately, and corporates to protect assets and avoid financial damages.

…and climate change is impacting our ability to forecast, too

Studies show that as temperature increases, the accuracy of weather forecasts decreases by several hours. Events such as hurricanes may become more difficult to forecast as warming climates enable them to develop and intensify more rapidly.

The answer to this challenge may lie in AI

Studies suggest AI has the potential to increase the accuracy of existing weather forecasting systems, as well as reduce processing time and energy consumption. However, there are limitations that need to be overcome, including the ability of AI to predict future extreme events accurately using historical data. We expect the blending of these technologies to unlock the benefits of AI and improve current systems. We are optimistic about AI’s potential to improve forecasting systems, possibly saving billions in damages, and better safeguarding communities worldwide.

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