NOAA Aims to Expand Its Use of AI
NOAA’s draft AI strategy says the agency wants to accelerate its use of the technology across the entire agency to “make transformative improvements in NOAA mission performance and cost effectiveness.”
Currently, NOAA uses AI tools to improve compute performance in areas such as deep-sea exploration, habitat characterization and processing of earth observations. The agency aims to boost coordination, operational capabilities, workforce proficiency and multisector partnerships to expand its use of AI.
According to the strategy document, NOAA envisions using AI for a wide range of missions, including: aerial and underwater surveys from ships and autonomous platforms to assess the abundance of marine mammal and fish populations; robotics for deep-sea exploration; quality control for weather observations; improving physical parameters for weather, ocean and ice modeling; and improving computational performance of numerical models that automate weather warning generation and the operation of unmanned systems for mapping, habitat characterization, hydrologic, oceanographic, atmospheric, fishery, ecosystem and geographic surveys.
NOAA also wants to leverage machine learning capabilities to analyze satellite imagery for severe weather detection and prediction, oil spill and hazardous material trajectory, wildfire detection and movement, ecosystem health and detection of illegal fishing activity. Machine learning can also help with the reliable and efficient processing, interpretation and use of earth observations.
To achieve such goals, NOAA has several objectives, including setting up efficient organizational structures and processes to advance AI across the agency, advancing AI research and innovation, accelerating the transition of AI research into operational capabilities, strengthening and expanding AI partnerships, and promoting AI proficiency in its workforce.
Notably, the document states that for successful transitions from research to operational capabilities, NOAA “will support the growth of a nascent commercial environmental AI sector that will increasingly serve as a source for solutions to our operational requirements.”
NOAA Envisions Multicloud Future
Meanwhile, NOAA’s cloud strategy document says that it “starts with and presumes an end state architecture (specifically, a multi-vendor, multi-tenant commercial cloud environment), followed by a requirements and business case analysis to determine the suitability of cloud for the requirements, and if suitable then determine the best permutation of this architecture (e.g., private, hybrid, public) for the requirements.”
The goal, NOAA states, is to create “significant opportunities for collaboration and sharing of assets (both infrastructure and data).”
NOAA notes that the data it stores is vast, complex and distributed, reflecting the diversity and footprint of the agency’s mission. Consequently, the systems and infrastructure that process, store and disseminate NOAA’s data are complex, distributed and largely stovepiped.
NOAA expects the volume and velocity of the data it collects “to increase exponentially with the advent of new observing system and data acquisition capabilities, placing a premium on our capacity and wherewithal to scale the IT infrastructure and services to support this growth.”
To handle that, NOAA needs to move more rapidly into cloud services, which represents both a significant investment and a change management challenge for the agency.
“At the same time, cloud adoption is an opportunity, an inflection point, where NOAA can modernize data storage and dissemination instead of just shifting existing systems to the cloud,” the agency notes in its strategy document. “Applying the right architecture for the right situation is the imperative. While cloud services may not be the best solution for all requirements, all NOAA IT investment decisions should fully and credibly consider cloud as a potential alternative.”
NOAA’s strategic goals for the cloud include enabling innovation through rapid adoption of cloud-based services; driving “smart” migration to the cloud based on mission requirements and a sound business case; ensuring secure and broad access to cloud services and providing effective governance for such services; and empowering a workforce that “has the skills, competencies, authority and information needed to apply cloud technologies that support” NOAA’s mission.