An Informed System Development Approach to Tropical Cyclone Track and Intensity Forecasting

University dissertation from Linköping, Sweden : Linköping University Electronic Press

Abstract: Introduction: Tropical Cyclones (TCs) inflict considerable damage to life and property every year. A major problem is that residents often hesitate to follow evacuation orders when the early warning messages are perceived as inaccurate or uninformative. The root problem is that providing accurate early forecasts can be difficult, especially in countries with less economic and technical means.Aim: The aim of the thesis is to investigate how cyclone early warning systems can be technically improved. This means, first, identifying problems associated with the current cyclone early warning systems, and second, investigating if biologically based Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) are feasible to solve some of the identified problems.Method: First, for evaluating the efficiency of cyclone early warning systems, Bangladesh was selected as study area, where a questionnaire survey and an in-depth interview were administered. Second, a review of currently operational TC track forecasting techniques was conducted to gain a better understanding of various techniques’ prediction performance, data requirements, and computational resource requirements. Third, a technique using biologically based ANNs was developed to produce TC track and intensity forecasts. Systematic testing was used to find optimal values for simulation parameters, such as feature-detector receptive field size, the mixture of unsupervised and supervised learning, and learning rate schedule. Five types of 2D data were used for training. The networks were tested on two types of novel data, to assess their generalization performance.Results: A major problem that is identified in the thesis is that the meteorologists at the Bangladesh Meteorological Department are currently not capable of providing accurate TC forecasts. This is an important contributing factor to residents’ reluctance to evacuate. To address this issue, an ANN-based TC track and intensity forecasting technique was developed that can produce early and accurate forecasts, uses freely available satellite images, and does not require extensive computational resources to run. Bidirectional connections, combined supervised and unsupervised learning, and a deep hierarchical structure assists the parallel extraction of useful features from five types of 2D data. The trained networks were tested on two types of novel data: First, tests were performed with novel data covering the end of the lifecycle of trained cyclones; for these test data, the forecasts produced by the networks were correct in 91-100% of the cases. Second, the networks were tested with data of a novel TC; in this case, the networks performed with between 30% and 45% accuracy (for intensity forecasts).Conclusions: The ANN technique developed in this thesis could, with further extensions and up-scaling, using additional types of input images of a greater number of TCs, improve the efficiency of cyclone early warning systems in countries with less economic and technical means. The thesis work also creates opportunities for further research, where biologically based ANNs can be employed for general-purpose weather forecasting, as well as for forecasting other severe weather phenomena, such as thunderstorms.