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  1. Process-based modelling offers interpretability and physical consistency in many domains of geosciences but struggles to leverage large datasets efficiently. Machine-learning methods, especially deep networks, have strong predictive skills yet are unable to answer specific scientific questions. In this Perspective, we explore differentiable modelling as a pathway to dissolve the perceived barrier between process-based modelling and machine learning in the geosciences and demonstrate its potential with examples from hydrological modelling. ‘Differentiable’ refers to accurately and efficiently calculating gradients with respect to model variables or parameters, enabling the discovery of high-dimensional unknown relationships. Differentiable modelling involves connecting (flexible amounts of) prior physical knowledge to neural networks, pushing the boundary of physics-informed machine learning. It offers better interpretability, generalizability, and extrapolation capabilities than purely data-driven machine learning, achieving a similar level of accuracy while requiring less training data. Additionally, the performance and efficiency of differentiable models scale well with increasing data volumes. Under data-scarce scenarios, differentiable models have outperformed machine-learning models in producing short-term dynamics and decadal-scale trends owing to the imposed physical constraints. Differentiable modelling approaches are primed to enable geoscientists to ask questions, test hypotheses, and discover unrecognized physical relationships. Future work should address computational challenges, reduce uncertainty, and verify the physical significance of outputs. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 11, 2024
  2. It can be expensive and difficult to collect direct bathymetry data for nearshore regions, especially in high-energy locations where there are temporally and spatially varying bathymetric features like sandbars. As a result, there has been increasing interest in remote assessment techniques for estimating bathymetry. Recent efforts have combined Kalman filter–based techniques with indirect video-based observations for bathymetry inversion. Here, we estimate nearshore bathymetry by utilizing observed wave celerity and wave height, which are related to bathymetry through phase-averaged wave dynamics. We present a modified compressed-state Kalman filter (CSKF) method, a fast and scalable Kalman filter method for linear and nonlinear problems with large numbers of unknowns and measurements, and apply it to two nearshore bathymetry estimation problems. To illustrate the robustness and accuracy of our method, we compare its performance with that of two ensemble-based approaches on twin bathymetry estimation problems with profiles based on surveys taken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Field Research Facility (FRF) in Duck, North Carolina. We first consider an estimation problem for a temporally constant bathymetry profile. Then we estimate bathymetry as it evolves in time. Our results indicate that the CSKF method is more accurate and robust than the ensemble-based methods with the same computational cost. The superior performance is due to the optimal low-rank representation of the covariance matrices.

     
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  3. Abstract Academic researchers, government agencies, industry groups, and individuals have produced forecasts at an unprecedented scale during the COVID-19 pandemic. To leverage these forecasts, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partnered with an academic research lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to create the US COVID-19 Forecast Hub. Launched in April 2020, the Forecast Hub is a dataset with point and probabilistic forecasts of incident cases, incident hospitalizations, incident deaths, and cumulative deaths due to COVID-19 at county, state, and national, levels in the United States. Included forecasts represent a variety of modeling approaches, data sources, and assumptions regarding the spread of COVID-19. The goal of this dataset is to establish a standardized and comparable set of short-term forecasts from modeling teams. These data can be used to develop ensemble models, communicate forecasts to the public, create visualizations, compare models, and inform policies regarding COVID-19 mitigation. These open-source data are available via download from GitHub, through an online API, and through R packages. 
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  4. Short-term probabilistic forecasts of the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States have served as a visible and important communication channel between the scientific modeling community and both the general public and decision-makers. Forecasting models provide specific, quantitative, and evaluable predictions that inform short-term decisions such as healthcare staffing needs, school closures, and allocation of medical supplies. Starting in April 2020, the US COVID-19 Forecast Hub ( https://covid19forecasthub.org/ ) collected, disseminated, and synthesized tens of millions of specific predictions from more than 90 different academic, industry, and independent research groups. A multimodel ensemble forecast that combined predictions from dozens of groups every week provided the most consistently accurate probabilistic forecasts of incident deaths due to COVID-19 at the state and national level from April 2020 through October 2021. The performance of 27 individual models that submitted complete forecasts of COVID-19 deaths consistently throughout this year showed high variability in forecast skill across time, geospatial units, and forecast horizons. Two-thirds of the models evaluated showed better accuracy than a naïve baseline model. Forecast accuracy degraded as models made predictions further into the future, with probabilistic error at a 20-wk horizon three to five times larger than when predicting at a 1-wk horizon. This project underscores the role that collaboration and active coordination between governmental public-health agencies, academic modeling teams, and industry partners can play in developing modern modeling capabilities to support local, state, and federal response to outbreaks. 
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