SEEDS: Emulation of Weather Forecast Ensembles with Diffusion Models


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Probabilistic forecasting is crucial to decision-making under uncertainty about future weather. The dominant approach is to use an ensemble of forecasts to represent and quantify uncertainty in operational numerical weather prediction. However, generating ensembles is computationally costly. In this paper, we propose to generate ensemble forecasts at scale by leveraging recent advances in generative artificial intelligence. Our approach learns a data-driven probabilistic diffusion model from the 5-member ensemble GEFS reforecast dataset. The model can then be sampled efficiently to produce realistic weather forecasts, conditioned on a few members of the operational GEFS forecasting system. The generated ensembles have similar predictive skill as the full GEFS 31-member ensemble, evaluated against ERA5 reanalysis, and emulate well the statistics of large physics-based ensembles. We also apply the same methodology to developing a diffusion model for generative post-processing: the model directly learns to correct biases present in the emulated forecasting system by leveraging reanalysis data as labels during training. Ensembles from this generative post-processing model show greater reliability and accuracy, particularly in extreme event classification. In general, they are more reliable and forecast the probability of extreme weather more accurately than the GEFS operational ensemble. Our models achieve these results at less than 1/10th of the computational cost incurred by the operational GEFS system.
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