NOC works with Microsoft to develop AI as a tool for oceanography

The NOC has received a Microsoft AI for Earth grant to predict wave sea states in the North Atlantic by using deep learning.

AI for Earth is a Microsoft programme offering cloud and AI computing resources, training and grants to researchers across the world, who are trying to create a more sustainable future.

One of the NOC scientists using this grant, Dr Nicolas Bruneau, said “wave dynamics are a key part of our global Earth system. However, current global climate models don’t directly take waves into account, as solving them deterministically is complex and computationally expensive. Yet not accounting for waves will limit how accurately these models can predict global environmental change.”

“My project focuses on developing a deep‐learning framework to emulate key wave characteristics (necessary to account for wave interactions with the ocean and atmosphere) in an accurate and cost‐effective way, by reducing the number of calculations once the machine learning model is trained with a large amount of data.”

He added that Microsoft’s computing power would provide huge benefits to his study.

“The AI for Earth programme allows easy access to powerful, cloud‐based computers. It’s a great way for scientists to access the Microsoft Azure platform and experiment with it to assess its potential for future use. I knew immediately that it could provide access to new infrastructure that was not yet available at the National Oceanography Centre.”

Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Officer and the man behind the company’s £39.4 million AI for Earth programme, said ““One of the great ironies of our day is that we often ask the organisations with the fewest resources to do the most – environmental non-profits, academics, under-funded governmental agencies. They’re the ones tasked with solving one of humanity’s greatest ever challenges?! That’s absurd – we need absolutely everyone leaning in right now.”

All the grant recipients are building on Microsoft’s 35-year work with AI, which aims to “assist humanity and augment our capabilities”, according to Harry Shum, Executive Vice-President of AI and Research at Microsoft.