IBM to address climate issues with geospatial AI tech

image of aerial view of green rolling hills | geospatial AI

IBM has announced new efforts that apply its geospatial AI technologies – including IBM’s geospatial foundation model created in collaboration with NASA – to climate efforts, such as the analysis of urban heat islands in the UAE, reforestation across Kenya and climate resilience in the UK.

Through fine-tuning, training and open-sourcing of foundation models, IBM continues to advance its AI model strategy.

These models present an opportunity to address climate change and create knowledge representations from petabytes and exabytes of climate-relevant data that can facilitate accelerated and streamlined discovery of environmental insights and solutions.

Alessandro Curioni, IBM fellow and vice president, accelerated discovery at IBM, said: “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.

“AI foundation models utilizing 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.”

Analyzing urban heat islands in the UAE

IBM and the Mohamed Bin Zayed University of AI (MBZUA) are pioneering an attempt to apply foundation models to the mapping of urban heat islands in the hope of keeping cities habitable and accurately mapping and addressing the rising heat levels.

Thus far, the model has informed efforts that have succeeded in a reduction of heat island effects in the region by more than 3oC (5.4 F) and is expected to continue providing unique insights that inform the development of urban design strategies.

Advancing reforestation and water sustainability in Kenya

The company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Kenyan government’s office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change Ali Mohamed, to support the National Tree Growing and Restoration Campaign through a new “adopt-a-water-tower” initiative.

This is fueled by a new digital platform that leverages IBM’s geospatial foundation model to enable users to track and visualize tree planting and tree growing activities in specific water tower areas. Local developers can also develop fine-tuned models which combine the IBM geospatial model with their own localized information to monitor forest restoration and measure above-ground biomass such as sequestered carbon.

Elevating climate resiliency across the UK

Collaborating with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Royal Haskoning DHV, IBM aims to establish a new service that leverages its geospatial AI tools to automate and scale climate risk assessment processes for organizations.

The service’s first use case will focus on the aviation sector and will assess the short-term impact of extreme weather on aviation operations as well as the long-term impact of climate change on future airport operations and infrastructure.

Extending NASA collaboration to apply generative AI to weather

IBM and NASA are also working on a new, separate AI foundation model for weather and climate. By applying AI technology from IBM, the model aims to improve the accuracy, speed and affordability of weather forecasting and other climate applications. Sample applications of the model not only include forecasting but also super-resolution downscaling, identifying conditions conducive to wildfires and predicting meteorological phenomena.