Ireland’s weather services are getting boosted with AI

14 Dec 2023

The Met Éireann building in Glasnevin. Image: Met Éireann

The Weather and Climate Research Professorship will build Ireland’s resilience to the climate crisis by researching weather events with the help of data science and AI.

Met Éireann, Ireland’s national meteorological service, has announced a new research programme with University College Dublin (UCD) to develop the country’s weather and climate services with the power of AI.

The multimillion-euro project is a response to the climate crisis and aims to harness data science and AI to enhance the safety of Ireland’s citizens, economy and weather-sensitive sectors.

Research from earlier this year revealed clear signs of a human-induced climate crisis in Ireland and the need for increased climate adaptation measures for flooding and other extreme weather events.

This Weather and Climate Research Professorship will include a €1m annual investment for an initial period of five years. A Met Éireann knowledge transfer team will work with a research group at UCD’s School of Mathematics and Statistics and UCD’s Earth Institute to boost the level of data science and AI in the higher education sector.

The goal is to conduct cutting-edge research on high-impact weather, flood forecasting and understanding of the climate. The knowledge gained will then be used to train future scientists and engineers.

Met Éireann director Eoin Moran said the professorship will put the organisation at the forefront of tech developments that will shape national meteorological and hydrological services “for years to come”.

“Not only is it a significant investment in the development of national forecasting capabilities and capacity but it will help make Ireland even more weather and climate prepared, by enhancing and improving the level of information available to the public,” Moran said.

“We are hugely excited by the prospect of working closely with UCD, and of the potential opportunities this could lead to in the responsible use of AI for good.”

In October, Met Éireann activated a new weather radar system at Shannon Airport to provide more accurate data. This was the first step in a plan to triple the number of weather radars from two to six.

Prof Helen Roche, UCD’s interim VP for research, impact and innovation, said the university will help develop AI-enhanced models to build on current weather forecasting capabilities and make Ireland more resilient to weather and climate changes.

“This ground-breaking partnership between UCD and Met Éireann will help produce the next generation of climate and weather scientists and help ensure that we have the tools and expertise needed to tackle the climate emergency,” Roche said.

Other organisations are looking at AI as a way to boost weather prediction. Last month, Google-owned DeepMind claimed its AI model GraphCast can make accurate predictions of the weather in less than one minute and give earlier warnings of extreme storms.

IBM announced an expanded collaboration with NASA last month, which will see the two organisations work on a foundation model aimed at making weather and climate applications faster, more accurate and more accessible.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic