Adapting deep learning models to new meteorological contexts using transfer learning
December 15, 2021
Meteorological applications such as precipitation nowcasting, synthetic radar generation, statistical downscaling and others have benefited from deep learning (DL) approaches, however several challenges remain for widespread adaptation of these complex models in operational systems. One of these challenges is adequate generalizability; deep learning models trained from datasets collected in specific contexts should not be expected to perform as well when applied to different contexts required by large operational systems. One obvious mitigation for this is to collect massive amounts of training data that cover all expected meteorological contexts, however this is not only costly and difficult to manage, but is also not possible in many parts of the globe where certain sensing platforms are sparse. In this paper, we describe an application of transfer learning to perform domain transfer for deep learning models. We demonstrate a transfer learning algorithm called weight superposition to adapt a Convolutional Neural Network trained in a source context to a new target context. Weight superposition is a method for storing multiple models within a single set of parameters thus greatly simplifying model maintenance and training. This approach also addresses the issue of catastrophic forgetting where a model, once adapted to a new context, performs poorly in the original context. We apply weight superposition to the problem of synthetic weather radar generation and show that in scenarios where the target context has less data, a model adapted with weight superposition is better at maintaining performance when compared to simpler methods. Conversely, the simple adapted model performs better on the source context when the source and target contexts have comparable amounts of data.