If you have a smartphone or spend time on the internet, you likely use services that rely on machine learning. It’s part of how Alexa decides what to say, Spotify predicts what songs you’ll like, and Google photos recognizes faces.

Lucas Joppa of Microsoft A.I. for Earth says this type of artificial intelligence can also help scientists understand how climate change is affecting the natural world.

Joppa: “I think that one of the things that surprises people over and over again is just how little information we actually have about land use in both the United States and globally, so where are our forests, where are our fields, where are our waterways, and how are they changing?”

Machine learning algorithms can be trained to interpret satellite imagery far faster than humans.

So they can be used to analyze and monitor forest cover, measure water levels, or track changes in the distribution of animal species.

Joppa: “We work on ag, water, biodiversity, and climate. I think there’s a huge spectrum of applications of artificial intelligence in the climate change broader world.”

And Joppa says these applications could change the way we monitor, model, and manage natural resources.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: NASA Landsat image.