Can We Integrate Spatial Verification Methods into Neural Network Loss Functions for Atmospheric Science?
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Can We Integrate Spatial Verification Methods into Neural Network Loss Functions for Atmospheric Science?

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  • Journal Title:
    Artificial Intelligence for the Earth Systems
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    In the last decade, much work in atmospheric science has focused on spatial verification (SV) methods for gridded prediction, which overcome serious disadvantages of pixelwise verification. However, neural networks (NN) in atmospheric science are almost always trained to optimize pixelwise loss functions, even when ultimately assessed with SV methods. This establishes a disconnect between model verification during versus after training. To address this issue, we develop spatially enhanced loss functions (SELF) and demonstrate their use for a real-world problem: predicting the occurrence of thunderstorms (henceforth, “convection”) with NNs. In each SELF we use either a neighborhood filter, which highlights convection at scales larger than a threshold, or a spectral filter (employing Fourier or wavelet decomposition), which is more flexible and highlights convection at scales between two thresholds. We use these filters to spatially enhance common verification scores, such as the Brier score. We train each NN with a different SELF and compare their performance at many scales of convection, from discrete storm cells to tropical cyclones. Among our many findings are that (i) for a low or high risk threshold, the ideal SELF focuses on small or large scales, respectively; (ii) models trained with a pixelwise loss function perform surprisingly well; and (iii) nevertheless, models trained with a spectral filter produce much better-calibrated probabilities than a pixelwise model. We provide a general guide to using SELFs, including technical challenges and the final Python code, as well as demonstrating their use for the convection problem. To our knowledge this is the most in-depth guide to SELFs in the geosciences. Significance Statement Gridded predictions, in which a quantity is predicted at every pixel in space, should be verified with spatially aware methods rather than pixel by pixel. Neural networks (NN), which are often used for gridded prediction, are trained to minimize an error value called the loss function. NN loss functions in atmospheric science are almost always pixelwise, which causes the predictions to miss rare events and contain unrealistic spatial patterns. We use spatial filters to enhance NN loss functions, and we test our novel spatially enhanced loss functions (SELF) on thunderstorm prediction. We find that different SELFs work better for different scales (i.e., different-sized thunderstorm complexes) and that spectral filters, one of the two filter types, produce unexpectedly well calibrated thunderstorm probabilities.
  • Source:
    Artificial Intelligence for the Earth Systems, 1(4)
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    2769-7525
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