Carefully Choose the Baseline: Lessons Learned from Applying XAI Attribution Methods for Regression Tasks in Geoscience
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Carefully Choose the Baseline: Lessons Learned from Applying XAI Attribution Methods for Regression Tasks in Geoscience

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  • Journal Title:
    Artificial Intelligence for the Earth Systems
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  • Description:
    Methods of explainable artificial intelligence (XAI) are used in geoscientific applications to gain insights into the decision-making strategy of neural networks (NNs), highlighting which features in the input contribute the most to a NN prediction. Here, we discuss our “lesson learned” that the task of attributing a prediction to the input does not have a single solution. Instead, the attribution results depend greatly on the considered baseline that the XAI method utilizes—a fact that has been overlooked in the geoscientific literature. The baseline is a reference point to which the prediction is compared so that the prediction can be understood. This baseline can be chosen by the user or is set by construction in the method’s algorithm—often without the user being aware of that choice. We highlight that different baselines can lead to different insights for different science questions and, thus, should be chosen accordingly. To illustrate the impact of the baseline, we use a large ensemble of historical and future climate simulations forced with the shared socioeconomic pathway 3-7.0 (SSP3-7.0) scenario and train a fully connected NN to predict the ensemble- and global-mean temperature (i.e., the forced global warming signal) given an annual temperature map from an individual ensemble member. We then use various XAI methods and different baselines to attribute the network predictions to the input. We show that attributions differ substantially when considering different baselines, because they correspond to answering different science questions. We conclude by discussing important implications and considerations about the use of baselines in XAI research. Significance Statement In recent years, methods of explainable artificial intelligence (XAI) have found great application in geoscientific applications, because they can be used to attribute the predictions of neural networks (NNs) to the input and interpret them physically. Here, we highlight that the attributions—and the physical interpretation—depend greatly on the choice of the baseline—a fact that has been overlooked in the geoscientific literature. We illustrate this dependence for a specific climate task, in which a NN is trained to predict the ensemble- and global-mean temperature (i.e., the forced global warming signal) given an annual temperature map from an individual ensemble member. We show that attributions differ substantially when considering different baselines, because they correspond to answering different science questions.
  • Source:
    Artificial Intelligence for the Earth Systems, 2(1)
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  • ISSN:
    2769-7525
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