Towards physically consistent data-driven weather forecasting: Integrating data assimilation with equivariance-preserving deep spatial transformers

03/16/2021 ∙ by Ashesh Chattopadhyay, et al. ∙ 9

There is growing interest in data-driven weather prediction (DDWP), for example using convolutional neural networks such as U-NETs that are trained on data from models or reanalysis. Here, we propose 3 components to integrate with commonly used DDWP models in order to improve their physical consistency and forecast accuracy. These components are 1) a deep spatial transformer added to the latent space of the U-NETs to preserve a property called equivariance, which is related to correctly capturing rotations and scalings of features in spatio-temporal data, 2) a data-assimilation (DA) algorithm to ingest noisy observations and improve the initial conditions for next forecasts, and 3) a multi-time-step algorithm, which combines forecasts from DDWP models with different time steps through DA, improving the accuracy of forecasts at short intervals. To show the benefit/feasibility of each component, we use geopotential height at 500 hPa (Z500) from ERA5 reanalysis and examine the short-term forecast accuracy of specific setups of the DDWP framework. Results show that the equivariance-preserving networks (U-STNs) clearly outperform the U-NETs, for example improving the forecast skill by 45%. Using a sigma-point ensemble Kalman (SPEnKF) algorithm for DA and U-STN as the forward model, we show that stable, accurate DA cycles are achieved even with high observation noise. The DDWP+DA framework substantially benefits from large (O(1000)) ensembles that are inexpensively generated with the data-driven forward model in each DA cycle. The multi-time-step DDWP+DA framework also shows promises, e.g., it reduces the average error by factors of 2-3.



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