Workshop Papers

Venue Title
ICLR 2024 Analyzing the secondary wastewater-treatment process using Faster R-CNN and YOLOv5 object detection algorithms (Papers Track)
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Abstract: The activated sludge (AS) process is the most common type of secondary wastewater treatment, applied worldwide. Due to the complexity of microbial communities, imbalances between the different types of bacteria may occur and disturb the process, with pronounced economical and environmental consequences. Microscopic inspection of the morphology of flocs and microorganisms provides key information on AS properties and function. This is a time-consuming, highly skilled, and expensive process that is not readily available in all locations. Thus, most wastewater-treatment plants do not carry out this essential analysis, resulting in frequent operational faults. In this study, we develop a novel deep learning (DL) object detection algorithm to analyze and monitor the AS process based on a unique microscopic image database of flocs and microorganisms. Specifically, we applied YOLOv5 and Faster R-CNN algorithms as tools for segmentation and object detection to analyze the wastewater. The mean average precision (mAP) of the YOLOv5 was 0.67, outperforming the Faster R-CNN by 15%. Histogram equalization preprocessing of both bright-field and phase-contrast images significantly improved the results of the algorithm in all classes. In the case of YOLOv5, the mAP increased by 16.67%, to 0.77, where the AP of protozoa, filaments, and open floc classes outperformed the previous model by over 20%. These results demonstrate the potential of leveraging DL algorithms to enhance the analysis and monitoring of WWTPs in an affordable manner, consequently reducing environmental pollution caused by contaminated effluent. The fundamental challenge addressed herein has important global relevance, especially in an era in which the demand for high-quality wastewater reuse is expected to increase dramatically.

Authors: Offir Inbar (Tel-Aviv University); Moni Shahar (Tel Aviv University); Jacob Gidron (Tel-Aviv University); Ido Cohen (Tel-Aviv University); Dror Avisar (Tel-Aviv University)

NeurIPS 2023 Towards a spatio-temporal deep learning approach to predict malaria outbreaks using earth observation measurements in South Asia (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Environmental indicators can play a crucial role in forecasting infectious disease outbreaks, holding promise for community-level interventions. Yet, significant gaps exist in the literature regarding the influence of changes in environmental conditions on disease spread over time and across different regions and climates making it challenging to obtain reliable forecasts. This paper aims to propose an approach to predict malaria incidence over time and space by employing a multi-dimensional long short-term memory model (M-LSTM) to simultaneously analyse environmental indicators such as vegetation, temperature, night-time lights, urban/rural settings, and precipitation. We developed and validated a spatio-temporal data fusion approach to predict district-level malaria incidence rates for the year 2017 using spatio-temporal data from 2000 to 2016 across three South Asian countries: Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. In terms of predictive performance the proposed M-LSTM model results in lower country-specific error rates compared to existing spatio-temporal deep learning models. The data and code have been made publicly available at the study GitHub repository.

Authors: Usman Nazir (Lahore University of Management Sciences); Ahzam Ejaz (Lahore University of Management Sciences); Muhammad Talha Quddoos (Lahore University of Management Sciences); Momin Uppal (Lahore University of Management Sciences); Sara khalid (University of Oxford)

NeurIPS 2023 Gaussian Processes for Monitoring Air-Quality in Kampala (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Monitoring air pollution is of vital importance to the overall health of the population. Unfortunately, devices that can measure air quality can be expensive, and many cities in low and middle-income countries have to rely on a sparse allocation of them. In this paper, we investigate the use of Gaussian Processes for both nowcasting the current air-pollution in places where there are no sensors and forecasting the air-pollution in the future at the sensor locations. In particular, we focus on the city of Kampala in Uganda, using data from AirQo's network of sensors. We demonstrate the advantage of removing outliers, compare different kernel functions and additional inputs. We also compare two sparse approximations to allow for the large amounts of temporal data in the dataset.

Authors: Clara Stoddart (Imperial College London); Lauren Shrack (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Usman Abdul-Ganiy (AirQo, Makerere University); Richard Sserunjogi (AirQo, Makerere University); Engineer Bainomugisha (AirQo, Makerere University); Deo Okure (AirQo, Makerere University); Ruth Misener (Imperial College London); Jose Pablo Folch (Imperial College London); Ruby Sedgwick (Imperial College London)

ICLR 2023 Mitigating climate and health impact of small-scale kiln industry using multi-spectral classifier and deep learning (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Industrial air pollution has a direct health impact and is a major contributor to climate change. Small scale industries particularly bull-trench brick kilns are one of the major causes of air pollution in South Asia often creating hazardous levels of smog that is injurious to human health. To mitigate the climate and health impact of the kiln industry, fine-grained kiln localization at different geographic locations is needed. Kiln localization using multi-spectral remote sensing data such as vegetation index results in a noisy estimates whereas use of high-resolution imagery is infeasible due to cost and compute complexities. This paper proposes a fusion of spatio-temporal multi-spectral data with high-resolution imagery for detection of brick kilns within the "Brick-Kiln-Belt" of South Asia. We first perform classification using low-resolution spatio-temporal multi-spectral data from Sentinel-2 imagery by combining vegetation, burn, build up and moisture indices. Then orientation aware object detector: YOLOv3 (with theta value) is implemented for removal of false detections and fine-grained localization. Our proposed technique, when compared with other benchmarks, results in a 21 times improvement in speed with comparable or higher accuracy when tested over multiple countries.

Authors: Usman Nazir (Lahore University of Management Sciences); Murtaza Taj (Lahore University of Management Sciences); Momin Uppal (Lahore University of Management Sciences); Sara khalid (University of Oxford)

ICLR 2023 Projecting the climate penalty on pm2.5 pollution with spatial deep learning (Proposals Track)
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Abstract: The climate penalty measures the effects of a changing climate on air quality due to the interaction of pollution with climate factors, independently of future changes in emissions. This work introduces a statistical framework for estimating the climate penalty on soot pollution (PM 2.5), which has been linked to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and premature mortality. The framework evaluates the disparities in future PM 2.5 exposure across racial/ethnic and income groups---an important step towards informing mitigation public health policy and promoting environmental equity in addressing the effects of climate change. The proposed methodology aims to improve existing statistical-based methods for estimating the climate penalty using an expressive and scalable predictive model based on spatial deep learning with spatiotemporal trend estimation. The proposed approach will (1) use higher-resolution climate inputs, which current statistical methods to estimate the climate penalty approaches cannot accommodate; (2) integrate additional predictive data sources such as demographics, geology, and land use; (3) consider regional dependencies and synoptic weather patterns influencing PM 2.5, deconvolving the effects of climate change from increasing air quality regulations and other sources of unmeasured spatial heterogeneity.

Authors: Mauricio Tec (Harvard University); Riccardo Cadei (Harvard University); Francesca Dominici (Harvard University); Corwin Zigler (University of Texas at Austin)

NeurIPS 2022 Forecasting European Ozone Air Pollution With Transformers (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Surface ozone is an air pollutant that contributes to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths annually. Accurate short-term ozone forecasts may allow improved policy to reduce the risk to health, such as air quality warnings. However, forecasting ozone is a difficult problem, as surface ozone concentrations are controlled by a number of physical and chemical processes which act on varying timescales. Accounting for these temporal dependencies appropriately is likely to provide more accurate ozone forecasts. We therefore deploy a state-of-the-art transformer-based model, the Temporal Fusion Transformer, trained on observational station data from three European countries. In four-day test forecasts of daily maximum 8-hour ozone, the novel approach is highly skilful (MAE = 4.6 ppb, R2 = 0.82), and generalises well to two European countries unseen during training (MAE = 4.9 ppb, R2 = 0.79). The model outperforms standard machine learning models on our data, and compares favourably to the published performance of other deep learning architectures tested on different data. We illustrate that the model pays attention to physical variables known to control ozone concentrations, and that the attention mechanism allows the model to use relevant days of past ozone concentrations to make accurate forecasts.

Authors: Seb Hickman (University of Cambridge); Paul Griffiths (University of Cambridge); Alex Archibald (University of Cambridge); Peer Nowack (Imperial College London); Elie Alhajjar (USMA)

NeurIPS 2022 Temperature impacts on hate speech online: evidence from four billion tweets (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Human aggression is no longer limited to the physical space but exists in the form of hate speech on social media. Here, we examine the effect of temperature on the occurrence of hate speech on Twitter and interpret the results in the context of climate change, human behavior and mental health. Employing supervised machine learning models, we identify hate speech in a data set of four billion geolocated tweets from over 750 US cities (2014 – 2020). We statistically evaluate the changes in daily hate tweets against changes in local temperature, isolating the temperature influence from confounding factors using binned panel-regression models. We find a low prevalence of hate tweets in moderate temperatures and observe sharp increases of up to 12% for colder and up to 22% for hotter temperatures, indicating that not only hot but also cold temperatures increase aggressive tendencies. Further, we observe that for extreme temperatures hate speech also increases as a percentage of total tweeting activity, crowding out non-hate speech. The quasi-quadratic shape of the temperature-hate tweet curve is robust across varying climate zones, income groups, religious and political beliefs. The prevalence of the results across climatic and socioeconomic splits points to limits in adaptation. Our results illuminate hate speech online as an impact channel through which temperature alters societal aggression.

Authors: Annika Stechemesser (Potsdam Insitute for Climate Impact Research); Anders Levermann (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research); Leonie Wenz (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research)

NeurIPS 2022 Accessible Large-Scale Plant Pathology Recognition (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Plant diseases are costly and threaten agricultural production and food security worldwide. Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of plant diseases and pests. Therefore, detection and early remediation can have a significant impact, especially in developing countries. However, AI solutions are yet far from being in production. The current process for plant disease diagnostic consists of manual identification and scoring by humans, which is time-consuming, low-supply, and expensive. Although computer vision models have shown promise for efficient and automated plant disease identification, there are limitations for real-world applications: a notable variation in visual symptoms of a single disease, different light and weather conditions, and the complexity of the models. In this work, we study the performance of efficient classification models and training "tricks" to solve this problem. Our analysis represents a plausible solution for these ecological disasters and might help to assist producers worldwide. More information available at:

Authors: Marcos V. Conde (University of Würzburg); Dmitry Gordeev (

NeurIPS 2022 Identification of medical devices using machine learning on distribution feeder data for informing power outage response (Proposals Track)
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Abstract: Power outages caused by extreme weather events due to climate change have doubled in the United States in the last two decades. Outages pose severe health risks to over 4.4 million individuals dependent on in-home medical devices. Data on the number of such individuals residing in a given area is limited. This study proposes a load disaggregation model to predict the number of medical devices behind an electric distribution feeder. This data can be used to inform planning and response to power outages and other emergencies. The proposed solution serves as a measure for climate change adaptation.

Authors: Paraskevi Kourtza (University of Edinburgh); Maitreyee Marathe (University of Wisconsin-Madison); Anuj Shetty (Stanford University); Diego Kiedanski (Yale University)

NeurIPS 2022 Urban Heat Island Detection and Causal Inference Using Convolutional Neural Networks (Proposals Track)
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Abstract: Compared to rural areas, urban areas experience higher temperatures for longer periods of time because of the urban heat island (UHI) effect. This increased heat stress leads to greater mortality, increased energy demand, regional changes to precipitation patterns, and increased air pollution. Urban developers can minimize the UHI effect by incorporating features that promote air flow and heat dispersion (e.g., increasing green space). However, understanding which urban features to implement is complex, as local meteorology strongly dictates how the environment responds to changes in urban form. In this proposal we describe a methodology for estimating the causal relationship between changes in urban form and changes in the UHI effect. Changes in urban form and temperature changes are measured using convolutional neural networks, and a causal inference matching approach is proposed to estimate causal relationships. The success of this methodology will enable urban developers to implement city-specific interventions to mitigate the warming planet's impact on cities.

Authors: Zachary D Calhoun (Duke University); Ziyang Jiang (Duke University); Mike Bergin (Duke University); David Carlson (Duke University)

NeurIPS 2022 CliMedBERT: A Pre-trained Language Model for Climate and Health-related Text (Proposals Track)
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Abstract: Climate change is threatening human health in unprecedented orders and many ways. These threats are expected to grow unless effective and evidence-based policies are developed and acted upon to minimize or eliminate them. Attaining such a task requires the highest degree of the flow of knowledge from science into policy. The multidisciplinary, location-specific, and vastness of published science makes it challenging to keep track of novel work in this area, as well as making the traditional knowledge synthesis methods inefficient in infusing science into policy. To this end, we consider developing multiple domain-specific language models (LMs) with different variations from Climate- and Health-related information, which can serve as a foundational step toward capturing available knowledge to enable solving different tasks, such as detecting similarities between climate- and health-related concepts, fact-checking, relation extraction, evidence of health effects to policy text generation, and more. To our knowledge, this is the first work that proposes developing multiple domain-specific language models for the considered domains. We will make the developed models, resources, and codebase available for the researchers.

Authors: Babak Jalalzadeh Fard (University of Nebraska Medical Center); Sadid A. Hasan (Microsoft); Jesse E. Bell (University of Nebraska Medical Center)

ICML 2021 Climate-based ensemble machine learning model to forecast Dengue epidemics (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Dengue fever is one of the most common and rapidly spreading arboviral diseases in the world, with major public health and economic consequences in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Countries such as Peru, 17.143 cases of dengue were reported in 2019, where 81.4% of cases concentrated in five of the 25 departments. When predicting infectious disease outbreaks, it is crucial to model the long-term dependency in time series data. However, this is challenging when performed on a countrywide level since dengue incidence varies across administrative areas. Therefore, this study developed and applied a climate-based ensemble model using multiple machine learning (ML) approaches to forecast dengue incidence rate (DIR) by department. The ensemble combined the outputs from Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) recurrent neural network and Categorical Boosting (CatBoost) methods to predict DIR one month ahead for each department in Peru. Monthly dengue cases stratified by Peruvian departments were analysed in conjunction with associated demographic, geographic, and satellite-based meteorological data for the period January 2010–December 2019. The results demonstrated that the ensemble model was able to forecast DIR in low-transmission departments, while the model was less able to detect sudden DIR peaks in some departments. Air temperature and wind components demonstrated to be the significant predictors for DIR predictions. This dengue forecast model is timely and can help local governments to implement effective control measures and mitigate the effects of the disease. This study advances the state-of-the-art of climate services for the public health sector, by informing what are the key climate factors responsible for triggering dengue transmission. Finally, this project summarises how important it is to perform collaborative work with complementary expertise from intergovernmental organizations and public health universities to advance knowledge and address societal challenges.

Authors: Rochelle Schneider (European Space Agency); Alessandro Sebastianelli (European Space Agency); Dario Spiller (Italian Space Agency); James Wheeler (European Space Agency); Raquel Carmo (European Space Agency); Artur Nowakowski (Warsaw University of Technology); Manuel Garcia-Herranz (UNICEF); Dohyung Kim (UNICEF); Hanoch Barlevi (UNICEF LACRO); Zoraya El Raiss Cordero (UNICEF LACRO); Silvia Liberata Ullo (University of Sannio); Pierre-Philippe Mathieu (European Space Agency); Rachel Lowe (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine)