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NASA AI Map Shows Climate Change on Your Street

A new tool could help you make key life decisions in the face of climate change.

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Did the increase in extreme weather events across the globe in 2023 exacerbate your eco-anxiety? If not, a new artificial intelligence (AI) technology that can anticipate how climate change could effect your house will.

Revealed at COP28, the AI technology, developed by NASA and IBM, will enable us monitor Earth from orbit — monitoring environmental changes that have already happened while also providing more precise predictions about the future. While not developed intentionally to scare you, the technology could help you escape severe weather situations in future.

It’s a bit like Google Earth — except that you can change different algorithms to disclose overlays such as tree cover, carbon emissions, and floods and wildfire danger. Plus, the developers are making it open to everyone when it becomes ready in 2024. This includes nations, corporations, charities – and you.

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In principle, you could even use it to decide where you should and shouldn’t visit – or where you should purchase a property, according to Dr Juan Bernabe-Moreno, head of IBM Research Europe for Ireland and UK.

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“There are many ideas about what you can do – the use of the application is really up to the people,”. “But instead of having to be a major tech [company] to produce this application, making it open-source means putting it in the hands of the community.”

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So how does it work? The tool is an AI-powered foundational model: a model that can map out complex systems using raw data. IBM constructed it utilizing NASA’s skills and, critically, their vast databases, such as information from satellites.

While you won’t need any fancy tech like, example, owning your own data centre to use it, the AI tool may not be able to function on your beloved old laptop.

The foundational model doesn’t require much but, according to Bernabe-Moreno, is likely to need a “few” GPUs: the part of your computer that permits graphics and visuals. (High-performance gaming laptops often have two GPUs.)

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In the future, applying this form of generative AI to the weather could lead to more accurate forecasts – as well as predictions about hurricanes, droughts, and other extreme phenomena. This could help us understand exactly how changes in the environment – such as ice loss at the poles – could effect our lives.

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Crucially, these genuine estimates may assist authorities to put emergency measures in place.

Being open-source, the tool will increase accountability as communities can hold governments to the pledges they make at gatherings like COP28. In reality, the Government of Kenya has been utilizing an existing version of the model to track the progress of its forestry initiative.

This is part of what Bernabe-Moreno calls the “democratisation of weather and climate”. He said: “We’ve put the ability to model climate and weather in the hands of the community, and that’s brilliant.”

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I'm Michael, a young enthusiast with an insatiable curiosity for the mysteries of science and technology. As a passionate explorer of knowledge, I envisioned a platform that could not only keep us all informed about the latest breakthroughs but also inspire us to marvel at the wonders that surround us.
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