IBM and NASA open-source AI model to study climate data

3 Aug 2023

Image: IBM

NASA estimates that by 2024, scientists will have 250,000TB of data from new satellite missions. Now, the IBM open-source AI model will help analyse it.

Earlier this year, IBM teamed up with NASA to apply AI foundation models on the vast amounts of geospatial data collected by the space agency to gain insights into Earth’s climate.

Now, the two household names in sci-tech are releasing the large geospatial foundation model on open-source AI platform Hugging Face to make it widely available to the public.

IBM claims it will be the largest geospatial foundation model on Hugging Face and the first-ever open-source AI foundation model built in collaboration with NASA.

Earth observation is the gathering of information about Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems, usually using satellite imaging. The goal of the partnership is to provide an easier and faster way for researchers to analyse and draw insights from these large datasets.

In a statement today (3 August), IBM said that access to latest data remains a “significant challenge” in climate science where environmental conditions “change almost daily”.

Meanwhile, NASA estimates that by 2024 scientists will have 250,000TB of data from new missions. But there are concerns that scientists and researchers still face obstacles in analysing these large datasets.

“The essential role of open-source technologies to accelerate critical areas of discovery such as climate change has never been clearer,” said Sriram Raghavan, vice-president of IBM Research AI.

“Making [the foundation AI model] available on the leading open-source AI platform Hugging Face, we can leverage the power of collaboration to implement faster and more impactful solutions that will improve our planet.”

The two organisations plan to work together on several projects to extract new insights from Earth observation data. For example, IBM is training a foundation model on NASA’s Harmonized Landsat-Sentinel-2 dataset, which contains information about land cover and land use changes captured by satellites.

By analysing the satellite data, it is hoped that this foundational model will identify changes in natural disasters, crop yields and wildlife habitats to help researchers analyse the Earth’s environmental systems.

“AI remains a science-driven field, and science can only progress through information sharing and collaboration,” said Jeff Boudier, head of product and growth at Hugging Face.

“This is why open-source AI and the open release of models and datasets are so fundamental to the continued progress of AI, and making sure the technology will benefit as many people as possible.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic