IBM continues to address climate change via geospatial AI

Ahead of COP28, IBM announce collaborations with NASA & Mohamed Bin Zayed University of AI to expand upon IBM geospatial AI tech and monitor climate change

IBM today announces new global climate change initiatives that apply its geospatial AI technology, including its geospatial foundation model developed in collaboration with NASA

The tech giant is collaborating with Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), the government of Kenya and the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) to expand the use of IBM’s geospatial AI to monitor CO2, complete urban heat island mapping and to better map reforestation and climate resiliency.

In addition, the company continues to expand its existing partnership with NASA to create a new AI foundation model for weather and climate forecasting.

NASA, geospatial foundation models and predicting the weather

IBM is continuing to advance AI through the creation, training, fine-tuning and open-sourcing of its foundation models. Foundation models can be used for different tasks and apply information from one situation to another and can be designed for geospatial applications.

Having been trained on geospatial information such as satellite images, IBM has found that its AI models can address climate change by creating knowledge representations from climate-relevant data and as a result, accelerate the discovery of environmental insights and solutions. IBM also states that its models can be fine-tuned and then applied across multiple areas that work to mitigate climate impact.

IBM and NASA have also announced work on a new AI foundation model for weather and climate predictions. The model aims to improve the accuracy, speed and affordability of weather forecasting and other climate applications. IBM AI experts will work alongside NASA climate scientists to test and validate the model on seven applications that include forecasting the weather, as well as predicting aviation turbulence and dust storms.

Moving forward, the model will provide unique insights to help towards reducing urban heat stress in changing climates. Most significantly, the AI model will be made openly available on Hugging Face and once trained, can be adapted to many downstream tasks with few GPUs.

“Climate change is a real and pressing issue that we must find new ways to address as quickly and efficiently as possible, including through today’s most advanced AI technologies,” said Alessandro Curioni, IBM Fellow and Vice President for Accelerated Discovery at IBM. 

“AI foundation models utilising geospatial data can be a game-changer because they allow us to better understand, prepare and address the many climate-related events affecting the health of our planet in a manner and speed never before seen. We are hopeful these technologies can help accelerate the rate at which we derive and apply solutions for a safer and healthier planet for future generations.”

Reforestation and urban heat mapping: ‘AI for good’

Furthering their sustainability efforts, IBM is partnering with MBZUAI to hopefully apply foundation models to the mapping of urban heat islands - which are areas with significantly higher temperatures compared to surrounding locations. 

A fine-tuned version of IBM’s geospatial foundation model to understand the urban environment in Abu Dhabi and how the underlying landscape in the UAE is impacting the formation of urban heat islands.

Additionally, the Kenyan government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IBM to support the country’s National Tree Growing and Restoration Campaign through a new “adopt-a-water-tower” initiative. IBM’s geospatial foundation model will allow users to track and better visualise tree planting in specific areas and also enable local developers to create fine-tuned models with localised information to monitor forest restoration.

In the UK, IBM is collaborating with STFC to elevate climate resiliency across the country and address climate risk. By leveraging IBM’s geospatial AI tools, the organisations are first focusing on the aviation industry and assess weather-related issues such as short-term impact of extreme weather on aviation operations, as well as the longer-term impacts of climate change on future airport operations and infrastructure.

Furthermore, an IBM research project will use geospatial AI technologies 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. 

IBM at COP28 - and beyond

IBM is continually working to expand upon its role at COP28 via a long history of action, research and advocacy around the environment, after releasing its first environmental policy in 1971.

The company is excited to be using AI to continue advancing the global fight against climate change. Dr. Juan Bernabe Moreno, Director of IBM Research Europe for UK & Ireland spoke to AI Magazine at IBM Research Zurich about what technology can do for sustainability moving forward.

He said: “The geospatial foundation model we have created is helping us quantify climate-mitigating actions like reforestation, but also helping us understand how particular measures like putting up a fence can help. 

“That is very encouraging because not only can you see the mass of trees growing, [but] you can also quantify how much carbon you can capture over years. So you make it tangible.”


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