Hurricane Forecasting: A Novel Multimodal Machine Learning Framework (Papers Track) Spotlight

Léonard Boussioux (MIT, CentraleSupélec); Cynthia Zeng (MIT); Dimitris Bertsimas (MIT); Théo J Guenais (Harvard University)

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This paper describes a machine learning (ML) framework for tropical cyclone intensity and track forecasting, combining multiple distinct ML techniques and utilizing diverse data sources. Our framework, which we refer to as Hurricast (HURR), is built upon the combination of distinct data processing techniques using gradient-boosted trees and novel encoder-decoder architectures, including CNN, GRU and Transformers components. We propose a deep-learning feature extractor methodology to mix spatial-temporal data with statistical data efficiently. Our multimodal framework unleashes the potential of making forecasts based on a wide range of data sources, including historical storm data, and visual data such as reanalysis atmospheric images. We evaluate our models with current operational forecasts in North Atlantic (NA) and Eastern Pacific (EP) basins on 2016-2019 for 24-hour lead time, and show our models consistently outperform statistical-dynamical models and compete with the best dynamical models. Furthermore, the inclusion of Hurricast into an operational forecast consensus model leads to a significant improvement of 5% - 15% over NHC's official forecast, thus highlighting the complementary properties with existing approaches.

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