US agency to build AI-powered digital twin of Earth’s atmosphere

The project will be done in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and Nvidia.
Loukia Papadopoulos
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The NOAA Earth Observing Digital Twin.


The U.S. state agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), wants to transform how the weather is reported. Their goal is to make the data look more like the way people see weather, in a 3D visual, and they have asked Colorado-based aerospace company Lockheed Martin to help them in this lofty task, according to a report by 9News published on Monday.

"It's going to be kind of a Google Earth-looking product, but it's going to have all of these observations coming in at almost a real-time basis," Lynn Montgomery Lockheed Martin research scientist told 9News.

"Our goal is to kind of fuse all the data into one measurement that represents the weather we see."

The new model will be called the NOAA Earth Observing Digital Twin and will be a twin of the atmospheric model based on a digital environment and whose data will eventually be fed into a weather forecast model.

Using advanced AI algorithms

By using advanced artificial intelligence algorithms and cooperating with computing company Nvidia, Lockheed Martin scientists will be able to collect, integrate and fuse a large amount of weather data.

Once this step has been successfully completed, the resulting data will be transferred into a computing format called Universal Scene Description (USD) that the filmmaker Pixar uses to create its 3D visuals.

"But then the fourth dimension is going to be time," added Montgomery.

"So, we are going to have this two-week moving time window where you're able to look back into the past and see those current observations move across the entire globe."

The end result will be a system that gives meteorologists a unique view of Earth's atmosphere. But that's not all. The AI will also be able to recognize patterns in the data and flag anomalies.

The project will take more than a year, but Montgomery hopes to have a prototype to show off by this fall.

"If you have a current state of the world, then with all of these data sources coming in, then you'll be able to better predict what's going to happen in the future," she said.

Digital twins already in use

Meanwhile, Matt Ross, senior program manager at Lockheed Martin Space, said in a statement that the work is not entirely new to the company.

"At Lockheed Martin, we regularly use digital twins and AI to provide our government customers with the clearest, current situational picture and actionable intelligence for their important mission. We're pleased that we can use our technology experience to collaborate with Nvidia on this project to provide NOAA a timely, global visualization for their own important missions," he explained.

An Nvidia executive added that the new solution is capable of solving many problems.

"Digital twins will help us solve the world's hardest scientific and environmental challenges," said Dion Harris, lead product manager of accelerated computing at Nvidia.

"The combination of Lockheed Martin's AI technology with Nvidia Omniverse will give NOAA researchers a powerful system to improve weather predictions at a global scale."

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