February 15, 2023

Can You Trust Machine Learning Chat Applications for Weather Information?

Today, machine learning (ML) applications such as chatGPT are all the rage, with folks worried about the displacement of humans, bogus homework, and more.   

So I was not a little curious to evaluate OpenAI's chatGPT abilities in the meteorological realm.

My conclusion:  human meteorologists currently don't have much to worry about.


ChatGPT can produce reasonable-sounding prose that is often totally wrong.

For example, I asked it about the origin of the all-important Puget Sound convergence zone (see below).

According to chatGPT convergence zones occur when ocean air collides with drier air from the eastern part of Washington State.  Wrong.  The Puget Sound Convergence occurs when marine air moves around the Olympics and then converges (comes together) east of the Olympics, forcing air upwards (and thus producing clouds and precipitation).   Zero for chatGPT


Then I thought I would give it an easy one...why Bellingham is often cold.  The answer is that cold air from the interior can jet out of the Fraser River Valley, a low-level passage through the Cascades.  ChatGPT came up with a crazy answer having to do with rain shadowing by local mountain ranges.  Totally bogus.


Then I asked about why there is often cold air in the Columbia Gorge.  Another easy one.

Truth: the low-level Columbia Gorge acts as a near-sea level conduit of cold air from eastern Washington.   But chatGPT had other ideas, from elevation (it got it 180° wrong), rain shadowing, and cold air drainage from the slopes of the Gorge.  Very bad explanation.



In sheer frustration, I decided to give chatGPT an even easier question: to produce my bio.

Much of it was wrong.  It claims I was born in 1951 (wrong) in Brooklyn (wrong) and that I grew up in Great Neck, NY. (wrong).  It was I got my Ph.D. from MIT (WRONG...I graduated from the UW).   And many of the other "facts" were in error.


In summary, chatGPT's performance was generally quite poor and one has to be VERY careful before believing its often convincing prose.

Finally, I asked chatGPT to write a weather blog for me and it was happy to oblige (see below).  I will let you, my readers, decide whether it is good enough to take over.


A lot of it was wrong, by the way.


19 comments:

  1. Now we know where the Seattle Times gets its stories.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Try the new Bing AI which is powered by the new version of ChatGPT and has current access to the internet (unlike ChatGPT that you tried). Also the new Bing AI can cite sources for it's information.

    Me: what is the puget sound convergence zone?
    Bing AI:
    According to the search results, **a Puget Sound Convergence Zone (PSCZ) is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs over Puget Sound in the U.S. state of Washington**²³. It is formed when the **large-scale air flow splits around the Olympic Mountains and then converges over Puget Sound**²³⁴. This creates a band of clouds and precipitation that can move southward or northward depending on the wind direction²³⁴. The PSCZ tends to form in the general vicinity of **central and southern Snohomish and northern King counties**²³, and is most frequent **following a storm system**⁴. The PSCZ can produce **heavy rain, snow, hail, thunderstorms, and strong winds**²³⁴.

    Source: Conversation with Bing, 2/15/2023(1) Puget Sound Convergence Zone - Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puget_Sound_Convergence_Zone Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (2) Puget Sound Convergence Zone - National Weather Service. https://www.weather.gov/zse/PSCZ Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (3) What Is A Puget Sound Convergence Zone? - KOMO. https://komonews.com/weather/faq/what-is-a-puget-sound-convergence-zone Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (4) Puget Sound Convergence Zone. https://www.weather.gov/zse/ZSEPSCZ#:~:text=A%20Puget%20Sound%20Convergence%20Zone%20%28PSCZ%29%20forms%20when,OVC045%2007%2F0%20...%20%203%20more%20rows%20 Accessed 2/15/2023.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Got it. Bing AI is great because it can look up stuff on Wikipedia. What progress!

      Delete
  3. Me: Why is it often so cold in Bellingham?
    Bing AI:
    According to the search results, **Bellingham is often cold because of its northern location, its proximity to the Canadian border, and its exposure to cold air outbreaks from the Arctic**¹²³⁴⁵. The average temperature in Bellingham is **4.5 °C (40 °F) in January** and **72.8 °F (22.7 °C) in August**²³⁴⁵. The coldest nights of the year can drop to around **-7 °C (19 °F)** or lower²⁵.

    Source: Conversation with Bing, 2/15/2023(1) US cold snap: Why is Texas seeing Arctic temperatures?. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56058372#:~:text=So%20why%20is%20this%20normally%20boiling%20state%20suddenly,winter%20snow%20storm%20as%20well%20as%20plummeting%20temperatures. Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (2) US cold snap: Why is Texas seeing Arctic temperatures?. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56058372 Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (3) Bellingham climate: weather by month, temperature, precipitation, when .... https://www.climatestotravel.com/climate/united-states/bellingham Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (4) Climate in Bellingham, Washington - Best Places. https://www.bestplaces.net/climate/city/washington/bellingham Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (5) Climate and Average Weather Year Round in Bellingham. https://weatherspark.com/y/991/Average-Weather-in-Bellingham-Washington-United-States-Year-Round Accessed 2/15/2023.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Me: How is it exposed to arctic?
    Bing AI:
    According to the search results, **Bellingham is exposed to arctic air when strong winds from the northeast, known as Fraser Outflow, blow across the Canadian border and into the Puget Sound region**¹²³. These winds can bring **very cold temperatures, snow, and wind-chill factors** to Bellingham and other areas¹²³. These winds can persist longer than typical with regional arctic-air outbreaks¹.

    Source: Conversation with Bing, 2/15/2023(1) What a Blast: The Arctic-Air Outbreak of February 1989. https://climate.washington.edu/climate-events/what-a-blast-the-arctic-air-outbreak-of-february-1989/ Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (2) Snow, strong winds batter Bellingham, Whatcom lowlands | Bellingham Herald. https://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/weather-news/article256865287.html Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (3) Snow possible in Bellingham during as Fraser winds start | Bellingham .... https://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/weather-news/article271691842.html Accessed 2/15/2023.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Try the new Bing AI which is powered by the new version of ChatGPT and has current access to the internet (unlike ChatGPT that you tried). Also the new Bing AI can cite sources for it's information.

    Me: Cliff Mass Biography
    Bing AI:
    According to the search results, **Cliff Mass is a professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington**¹²³⁴. He is an expert in **numerical weather modeling and prediction, the role of topography in the evolution of weather systems, regional climate modeling, and the weather of the Pacific Northwest**¹²³⁴. He was born in **1952**¹³ and has written several books and articles on weather and climate²⁴.

    Source: Conversation with Bing, 2/15/2023(1) Cliff Mass: Wetenschapper (1952-) | Biography, Facts, Information .... https://peoplepill.com/people/cliff-mass/#:~:text=Biography%20Clifford%20F.%20%22Cliff%22%20Mass%20is%20an%20American,modeling%2C%20and%20the%20weather%20of%20the%20Pacific%20Northwest. Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (2) Cliff Mass - Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliff_Mass Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (3) Cliff Mass: Wetenschapper (1952-) | Biography, Facts, Information .... https://peoplepill.com/people/cliff-mass/ Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (4) Cliff Mass | College of the Environment. https://environment.uw.edu/faculty/clifford-mass/ Accessed 2/15/2023.

    Me: Give me more detail for his bio
    Bing AI:
    According to the search results, **Cliff Mass is a full professor at the University of Washington**¹²³⁴, where he has been teaching since **1987**². He is a **fellow of the American Meteorological Society**, has been an **editor of a number of meteorological journals**, is a **member of the Washington State Academy of Sciences**, has **published over 160 papers**, and has **served as a member of a number of National Academy committees**³. He is also a **popular weather blogger** and a **frequent guest on local radio and TV stations**²⁴. He is the author of **The Weather of the Pacific Northwest**—one of the best-selling books from the University of Washington Press⁴ and **Weather of the Pacific Northwest: A New Edition for 2020**². He has a **Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from Cornell University**² and a **B.S. in Physics and Mathematics from MIT**². He was born in **Los Angeles** and grew up in **New York City**².

    Source: Conversation with Bing, 2/15/2023(1) Cliff Mass - Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliff_Mass#:~:text=Clifford%20F.%20Mass%20is%20an%20American%20professor%20of,modeling%2C%20and%20the%20weather%20of%20the%20Pacific%20Northwest. Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (2) Cliff Mass - Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliff_Mass Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (3) Department of Atmospheric Sciences. https://a.atmos.washington.edu/~cliff/Cliff%20Mass.html Accessed 2/15/2023.
    (4) Cliff Mass | College of the Environment. https://environment.uw.edu/faculty/clifford-mass/ Accessed 2/15/2023.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bing has some issues however: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/02/16/microsofts-bing-ai-is-leading-to-creepy-experiences-for-users.html

      Delete
  6. The AI hype is nearly as bad as the cryptocurrency/blockchain/NFT hype.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorta, but the AI hype is justified if current products are viewed as a hint of what's to come in the next few years and decades (and beyond). That's not true of crypto etc.

      Delete
  7. That may not be the way Cliff would write the blog on the current weather but I don't see too much wrong with this one, as it relates to conditions over here in Eastern Washington. It has been relatively mild and dry, especially since the middle of January. Temperatures were above normal in January at Wenatchee and are currently slightly above normal through the first half of February. We have had less than .20" of precipitation since mid January. The snowpack along the Cascade east slopes is below normal currently with the important Yakima Basin at 84%. This may improve but it is a bit worrisome at this time. So at least for our area I wouldn't give this blog a poor grade although as Cliff mentioned, it's other descriptions regarding the convergence zone, Bellingham and the Columbia Gorge were not very good.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yet another example of why the elite's eternal hope of reaching "singularity" is more of a mirage than ever.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Scott-

    Thanks for providing some balance and perspective. In terms of various methods of predicting weather itself, which may utilize AI technologies as we go forward, it is also worthwhile discussing the pros and cons of various mathematical weather prediction models, which still have limitations and require human interpretation. The NWS rarely simply picks a favorite model in coming up with a forecast.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Perhaps a role as White House Press 'splainer

    ReplyDelete
  11. Bruce B is dead-on: remember that chatGPT is but a foretaste. As Scott's Bing AI examples show, the field is moving at breakneck pace. Among other advances, one that Bing AI focuses on is grounding the truth claims in data backed by search results (along with using the underlying language model to generate high-quality search terms). Between that and an apparently larger model underneath (which can apparently read those pages into its memory before generating response), it largely corrects the chatGPT mistakes Cliff calls out. Still a long way to go, but astonishing for but a few months' progress.

    Of course, this is all for language (the underlying model was, after all, just trained on text found on the internet). I imagine we're not far off from language models facilitating accessible explanation of weather phenomenon (like Bing AI), or helping researchers distill and summarize the existing literature. But maybe a more interesting question is whether the underlying approach is relevant to weather modeling itself. Not my field, but I would guess the underlying concepts of these transformer-based, self-supervised models have significant untapped potential in weather modeling, much as they have transformed protein folding and molecular docking tasks (e.g), for which physics models also still have a significant role to play. In fact, in molecular modeling, much research is focused on taking "ground truth" that can be generated by very computationally expensive physics models, and learning how to efficiently approximate the results, achieving many orders of magnitude speedup, which of course facilitates much more complicated simulation. Seems likely there are similar untapped opportunities in weather modeling?

    ReplyDelete
  12. “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He who controls access to information controls the world.

      Delete
  13. Sounds like all hype about AI is much like how Cloud computing was when it was first launched. That is, it was touted as the way to computer, software is in the cloud etc but the reality was much of that was total oversell on what is capabilities were, then, and likely still now in many cases whereby trying to use apps that reside in the cloud can be frustrating to use due to lag, slow internet speeds etc. Also, they do say this, but if you fail to pay the bill, you loose your work. Even now with stuff on a hard drive, be it a mechanical spinner or an SSD, you will have to pay with either a subscription, or replacement of said drive if it shows signs of failing or you run out of space.

    So I see the cloud more for short term use, rather than long term, as it was sold, and thus AI is I think falling into a similar trap, same with Crypto (have not fallen for that) for that matter too.

    At least we are now seeing AI improve as we type, but the hype I feel tends to be oversold and people (too many) fall for it, and develop an irrational fear about it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. What is this, a GFS based thing ?

    https://www.ventusky.com/?p=47.635;-122.752;9&l=snow&t=20230225/1800

    ReplyDelete

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