Learning and Dynamical Models for Sub-seasonal Climate Forecasting: Comparison and Collaboration

Sijie He, Xinyan Li, Laurie Trenary, Benjamin A. Cash, Timothy DelSole, Arindam Banerjee

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Sub-seasonal forecasting (SSF) is the prediction of key climate variables such as temperature and precipitation on the 2-week to 2-month time horizon. Skillful SSF would have substantial societal value in areas such as agricultural productivity, hydrology and water resource management, and emergency planning for extreme events such as droughts and wildfires. Despite its societal importance, SSF has stayed a challenging problem compared to both short-term weather forecasting and long-term seasonal forecasting. Recent studies have shown the potential of machine learning (ML) models to advance SSF. In this paper, for the first time, we perform a fine-grained comparison of a suite of modern ML models with start-of-the-art physics-based dynamical models from the Subseasonal Experiment (SubX) project for SSF in the western contiguous United States. Additionally, we explore mechanisms to enhance the ML models by using forecasts from dynamical models. Empirical results illustrate that, on average, ML models outperform dynamical models while the ML models tend to generate forecasts with conservative magnitude compared to the SubX models. Further, we illustrate that ML models make forecasting errors under extreme weather conditions, e.g., cold waves due to the polar vortex, highlighting the need for separate models for extreme events. Finally, we show that suitably incorporating dynamical model forecasts as inputs to ML models can substantially improve the forecasting performance of the ML models. The SSF dataset constructed for the work and code for the ML models are released along with the paper for the benefit of the artificial intelligence community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAAAI-22 Technical Tracks 4
PublisherAssociation for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)1577358767, 9781577358763
StatePublished - Jun 30 2022
Event36th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2022 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Feb 22 2022Mar 1 2022

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 36th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2022


Conference36th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2022
CityVirtual, Online

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence


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