Envisioning Safer Cities with Artificial Intelligence

Over the past several decades, artificial intelligence has advanced tremendously, and today it promises new opportunities for more accurate healthcare, enhanced national security and more effective education, researchers say. But what about civil engineering and city planning? How do increased computing power and machine learning help create safer, more sustainable and resilient infrastructure?

U.S. National Science Foundation-funded researchers at the Computational Modeling and Simulation Center, or SimCenter, have developed a suite of tools called BRAILS — short for Building Recognition using AI at Large-Scale — that can automatically identify characteristics of buildings in a city and detect the risks a city’s structures would face in the event of an earthquake, hurricane or tsunami.

SimCenter is part of the NSF-funded Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure program and serves as a computational modeling and simulation center for natural hazards engineering researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

Charles Wang, the lead developer of BRAILS, says the project grew out of a need to “quickly and reliably characterize the structures in a city. We want to simulate the impact of hazards on all the buildings in a region, but we don’t have a description of the building attributes.”

For example, he says, “in the San Francisco Bay area, there are millions of buildings. Using AI, we are able to get the needed information. We can train neural network models to infer building information from images and other sources of data.”

To train the BRAILS modules and run the simulations, the researchers used supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center — notably Frontera, the fastest academic supercomputer in the world, and Maverick 2, a GPU-based system designed for deep learning.

“Frontera is a leadership computing resource that serves science and engineering research for the nation,” says Manish Parashar, director of NSF’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure. “We are excited about the new computational methods and techniques Frontera is enabling to transform how engineering discoveries are being made to make our lives safer.”

The SimCenter recently released BRAILS version 2.0, which includes modules to predict a larger spectrum of building characteristics. These include occupancy class, roof type, foundation elevation, year built, number of floors, and whether a building has a “soft-story” — a civil engineering term for structures that include ground floors with large openings like storefronts that may be more prone to collapse during an earthquake.

“Given the importance of regional simulations and the need for large inventory data to execute these, machine learning is really the only option for making progress,” says SimCenter co-director Sanjay Govindjee. “It is exciting to see civil engineers learning these new technologies and applying them to real-world problems.”

Stay Tuned For More Latest Research and Development


Category 4 Hurricane Lorenzo is the Most Intense Hurricane So Far East in the Atlantic Ocean on Record


Hurricane Lorenzo became the most intense hurricane so far east in the Atlantic Ocean on record Thursday night, and poses a danger to the Azores next week.

Lorenzo rapidly intensified into a Category 4 hurricane Thursday, with maximum winds estimated at 145 mph.

According to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, a tropical scientist at Colorado State University, Lorenzo became the most intense hurricane east of 45 degrees West longitude in the historical record.

Lorenzo is even a bigger outlier when considering only those Category 4 hurricanes from Sept. 26 through the end of the season, as pointed out by Richard Dixon, a meteorologist at CatInsight and Michael Lowry, an atmospheric scientist at FEMA.

Even in the heart of hurricane season, tropical waves moving off the coast of western Africa usually take some time to mushroom into intense hurricanes.

This is often due to intrusions of dry air, known as Saharan air layers, moving off Africa’s Sahara Desert. Fledgling tropical disturbances need warm, moist air to intensify, so battling these intrusions can prevent intensification or even spell doom in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

In Lorenzo’s case, that wasn’t a big problem.

A lack of shearing winds, typically warm ocean water and moist air allowed Lorenzo to rapidly intensify so far east.

Lorenzo strengthened from a tropical storm on Tuesday into a hurricane on Wednesday, before reaching Category 4 hurricane strength by late Thursday morning.

Azores Threat
The storm is no immediate threat to land, but it is forecast to pass near the Azores Tuesday night or early Wednesday as a weaker, but still formidable hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center mentioned Lorenzo’s wind field is large, increasing the chances it may impact the group of Portuguese islands about 900 miles west of Portugal.

NHC forecaster Eric Blake tweeted Thursday its size resembled that of a super typhoon in the western Pacific Ocean than an eastern Atlantic hurricane.

According to NOAA’s historical database, only seven Category 2 or stronger hurricanes have tracked within 200 nautical miles of the Azores, in records dating to the mid-19th century.

Ophelia passed south the Azores as a Category 3 hurricane in mid-October 2017, but produced tropical storm-force winds, downing a few trees and triggering some minor flooding, according to the NHC’s final report.

A September 1926 Category 2 hurricane with estimated winds of 105 mph tracked over the island of São Miguel.

As meteorologist Yaakov Cantor mentioned Thursday, there have been a number of strange eastern Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms in recent years, including Leslie almost making it to Portugal as a hurricane in 2018 and a bizarre January strike from Hurricane Alex in the Azores.

UPDATE :Typhoon Lekima Hammering Japan’s Ryukyu Islands and Soaking Taiwan Before Heading to Eastern China

Typhoon Lekima is hammering Japan’s southern Ryukyu Islands while also soaking Taiwan before heading for eastern China by this weekend.

Lekima is currently centered about 180 miles west of Kadena Air Base in Okinawa and is heading northwestward.

After rapidly intensifying Tuesday into Wednesday, Lekima became a super typhoon (winds 150 mph or greater) for a short time late Thursday into early Friday. Lekima has since weakened slightly to a Category 4 hurricane.

Damaging winds and heavy rain continue battering Japan’s southernmost Ryukyu Islands, including Ishigaki and Miyako, and the super typhoon’s outer eyewall tracks across the islands. Winds had gusted as high as 46.6 m/s or 104 mph at Miyako Shimojishima Airport as of early Friday morning local time (JST). Sustained typhoon force winds (33.5 m/s or 75 mph) has been reported in Miyako. Ishigaki has received 198 mm or around 7.8 inches of rainfall so far.

Typical of intense tropical cyclones, the eye of Lekima wobbled as it tracked through the Ryukyu Islands, passing near the islands of Tarama and Minna, about 200 miles east-southeast of Taipei, Taiwan.

Lekima will pull away from southern Japan during the early morning hours of Friday, and winds will begin to come down.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency has issued storm warnings, equivalent to typhoon warnings, for the southern Ryukyu Islands. Storm surge warnings have also been issued.

Lekima is forecast to move north of Taiwan on Friday afternoon into the evening, local time in Taiwan (CST). Heavy rain and strong wind gusts from Lekima will still impact parts of Taiwan even though the center of the typhoon won’t make landfall there.

The Central Weather Bureau in Taiwan has issued typhoon warnings for northern parts of Taiwan.

More than a foot of rain is currently forecast through Saturday in the higher elevations of Taiwan. The excessive rainfall could trigger flooding, as well as landslides.

Rainfall totals of more than 8 inches had already been reported on Thursday in parts of Taiwan as of early Friday morning, local time.

This weekend, Lekima will be on a weakening trend as it curls northward near the eastern coast of China, potentially including near Shanghai.

Heavy rain could trigger flooding in eastern China. Strong winds and storm surge flooding are also possible depending on the exact track and intensity of Lekima as it moves near, inland or offshore from the coastline.

Typhoon Krosa
Several hundred miles to the east of Lekima is Typhoon Krosa which now has winds equivalent in strength to a Category 2 hurricane.

Krosa may be getting weakened by its relatively slow motion, which cools water down in a process called upwelling.

Krosa is forecast to drift near Iwo Jima and the Ogasawara Islands later this week but will otherwise remain over the open waters of the Western Pacific the next five days. Extended periods of gusty winds and heavy rainfall are expected in the Ogasawara Islands.

When Krosa begins to gain more latitude, it’s possible Krosa could approach mainland Japan early next week as a typhoon, but the forecast this far out in time is highly uncertain.

Francisco made landfall in southern Japan as typhoon Tuesday morning local time, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, according to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

More than 15 inches of rain soaked the Tokushima Prefecture, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Parts of the Miyazaki Prefecture saw more than 10 inches of rain.

A Quiet Typhoon Season Before This Week
This year had been uncommonly calm for typhoon activity through Aug. 4 in the Northwest Pacific, which is normally the most active region on Earth for tropical cyclones. The only typhoon recorded in 2019 through Aug. 4 was Wutip, the first Category 5 super typhoon on record in February. Wutip passed south of Guam and Micronesia as a Category 4 storm, producing more than $3 million in damage.

Japan is accustomed to typhoons. In a typical year, three typhoons strike Japan, according to data from the Japan Meteorological Agency analyzed by nippon.com. Landfalls are most common in August, but the most destructive typhoons tend to be in September.

Since 1950, no other year had gone from Feb. 28 to Aug. 4 without any typhoons, as noted by Dr. Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University. Francisco put an end to that streak when it became a typhoon on Aug. 5.

In a typical season (1981-2010), the Northwest Pacific sees about eight named storms and five typhoons by Aug. 2. This year had brought just five named storms and one typhoon by that date.

The amount of accumulated cyclone energy in the Northwest Pacific – which is calculated based on how strong tropical cyclones get and how long they last – was only a little over half of average for the year as of Aug. 2, according to data compiled by Colorado State University.

So, what’s the difference between this quiet period and now?

At least one factor that may be having its hand on the “on” switch for the west Pacific is the Madden-Julian Oscillation.

The MJO is essentially a wave of increased storminess, clouds and pressure that moves eastward around the globe once every 40 days or so.

In the tropics, the MJO is known to kick up or assist in tropical cyclone development.

A robust MJO wave is now moving through eastern Asia and the western Pacific, and likely helped the recent tropical cyclone outbreak fester.

Francisco to Strike Southern Japan Monday Night; Lekima Could Be a Threat to East Asia Late This Week

Tropical Storm Francisco is closing in on landfall in southern Japan, and that could be followed by Tropical Storm Lekima taking aim at eastern Asia later this week.

Francisco to Strike Japan First

Francisco’s top sustained winds Monday local time were about 70 mph, according to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC).

The JTWC forecasts that Francisco will reach the southernmost of Japan’s large islands, Kyushu, Monday night into early Tuesday local time.

Francisco will then go on to make landfall in South Korea as a weakening tropical storm around Tuesday or Wednesday.

The main threat from Francisco will likely be heavy rain in parts of southern Japan, including Kyushu, Shikoku and southwestern Honshu. Flooding and landslides are possible threats, particularly in higher-terrain locations.

Heavy rain will also be a concern in eastern sections of South Korea.

Lekima a Possible Threat to Japan, Taiwan and Eastern China Later This Week

Tropical Storm Lekima has joined Francisco in the Western Pacific and could go on to impact parts of southern Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan and eastern China later this week.

Lekima is currently centered several hundred miles south-southeast of Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.

The forecast for Lekima is still uncertain, but it’s predicted to gradually move northwestward over the next few days as it slowly intensifies. It’s possible Lekima could impact Japan’s southern Ryukyu Islands and Taiwan as a strong tropical storm late in the week ahead.

Lekima is currently forecast to make a final landfall in eastern China as tropical storm by this weekend.

Typhoons in the Northwest Pacific are equivalent to hurricanes in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific. Both names apply to tropical cyclones that have sustained winds of at least 74 mph.

Check back to weather.com in the week ahead for additional details on the forecast for Lekima.

A Quiet Typhoon Season So Far

This year has been uncommonly calm to date for typhoon activity in the Northwest Pacific, which is normally the most active region on Earth for tropical cyclones. The only typhoon recorded in 2019 so far was Wutip, the first Category 5 super typhoon on record in February. Wutip passed south of Guam and Micronesia as a Category 4 storm, producing more than $3 million in damage.

In JTWC records that go back to 1945, only one other year, 1998, has gone from the end of February to the beginning of August without any typhoons, as noted by Dr. Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University.

In a typical season (1981-2010), the Northwest Pacific sees about eight named storms and five typhoons by Aug. 2. This year has brought just five named storms and one typhoon so far.

The amount of accumulated cyclone energy in the Northwest Pacific – which is calculated based on how strong tropical cyclones get and how long they last – was only a little over half of average for the year as of Aug. 2, according to data compiled by Colorado State University.

Japan is accustomed to typhoons. In a typical year, three typhoons strike Japan, according to data from the Japan Meteorological Agency analyzed by nippon.com. Landfalls are most common in August, but the most destructive typhoons tend to be in September.

A Derecho, a Widespread Destructive Thunderstorm Wind Event, Swept Across Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan

A line of severe thunderstorms known as a derecho produced damaging winds across the upper Midwest Friday and early Saturday morning, downing numerous trees, damaging some homes, and knocking out power to several hundred thousand customers.

A cluster of thunderstorms in eastern Minnesota Friday afternoon organized into a squall line that raced across northern Wisconsin Friday evening into Lower Michigan after midnight, laying down a 485-mile long trail of damaging winds over a 10-hour period.

This satisfied the criteria for a derecho as laid out by a 2005 study from Walker Ashley and Thomas Mote, a type of widespread convective windstorm typical in summer on the northern edge of a significant heat wave.

The derecho first organized in central Minnesota between the Twin Cities and Duluth, dumping hail as large as baseballs in Pine City late Friday afternoon, smashing vehicle windshields on Interstate 35. Wind-driven hail reportedly flattened crops in the area. At least three buildings were damaged in the nearby town of West Rock, Minnesota.

A trained spotter recorded a wind gust up to 84 mph and sustained winds of 73 mph for five minutes in Cushing, Wisconsin as the developing squall line crossing into northwest Wisconsin.

Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, about 55 miles northeast of St. Paul, was particularly hard hit Friday evening. A roof was ripped off one business, siding partially torn off a hotel and numerous trees were downed. Power was knocked out to many customers in Polk and Burnett counties as storms tore through.

Two barns, a garage and silo were reportedly downed and power poles were bent or snapped in Clark County, Wisconsin, and a well-constructed pole barn was destroyed in neighboring Marathon County.

Widespread tree damage has been reported across Langlade, Shawano, Portage, Outagamie, Kewaunee and Manitowoc Counties in eastern Wisconsin.

If the wind wasn’t bad enough, a tornado touched down near Knowlton, Wisconsin, located roughly 50-55 miles west-northwest of Green Bay around 8:30 p.m. CDT, destroying a barn.

Trees were downed in Green Bay as the line of thunderstorms arrived late Friday evening.

The derecho then roared across Lake Michigan into Lower Michigan after midnight.

Numerous trees were downed in Lake, Mecosta, Newaygo, Montcalm County.

A wind gust of 64 mph was clocked in Muskegon, where numerous trees were downed, some on vehicles in the city just after 1 a.m. One tree was downed on a hotel in Marion, Michigan.

Winds gusted to 69 mph in Grand Rapids. A roof was blown off a home in Jenison, just west of Grand Rapids and a large tree was downed on a home in Middleville, just south of Grand Rapids.

The derecho finally lost its punch around 3 a.m. over southern Lower Michigan just after producing a 58 mph gust in Kalamazoo.

In all, over 120 reports of strong thunderstorm winds or wind damage were compiled by the National Weather Service from the derecho.

As of sunrise on July 20, just over 272,000 customers were without power in Michigan and Wisconsin from the storm, according to an estimate from poweroutage.us.

These derechos have a notorious history in the upper Midwest.

One infamous derecho on July 4, 1977, damaged or destroyed about 1 million acres of forest from northern Minnesota into northern Wisconsin.

This derecho was produced from a classic summer severe weather setup in the Midwest.

Oppressively hot, humid air was in place as far north as the upper Mississippi Valley, with temperatures reaching into the 90s and dew points, a measure of moisture, surging well into the 70s.

A record strong jet stream by mid-July standards in the Pacific Northwest punched into the northern Plains and southern Canada just north of an east-to-west oriented frontal boundary that stretched across the upper Midwest.

These ingredients combined to provide both the extreme instability (hot, humid air near the ground topped by relatively cool air several thousand feet aloft), moisture and source of lift (the frontal system) for this squall line of severe thunderstorms.

An atmospheric sounding taken at the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, Minnesota, Friday evening found a measure of instability known to meteorologists as surface-based CAPE was the highest on record, there.

This prompted a rare “potentially dangerous situation” severe thunderstorm watch from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, which mentioned potential peak wind gusts up to 105 mph possible.

According to Storm Prediction Center warning coordination meteorologist Patrick Marsh, the last time the SPC issued a watch with that high a potential thunderstorm wind gust was in mid-June 2009.

BREAKING NEWS: Tropical Storm Barry Expected to Make Landfall as a Hurricane

A state of emergency has been declared in Louisiana and the National Guard activated, and mandatory evacuations have been ordered in some places along the Louisiana coast as Tropical Storm Barry formed over the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday morning.

This is day 9 of my 14 day window related to July 2nd’s full solar eclipse. Here is a paragraph published July 2nd telling of what could happen evidenced by my research of historical data:

Close to and during a full solar eclipse, it is the sudden temperature fluctuation which can cause a chain reaction. Producing a sudden and rapid shift in both the jet stream and ocean currents, can cause the destabilization of set seasonal patterns. Additionally, what is often referred to as Extreme Weather involving tornadoes, hurricanes, straight line winds, and wind shears is almost always related to shifting ocean and jet stream currents. FULL ARTICLE

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) declared Barry the second named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and it was moving west at 5 mph. Barry is forecast to make landfall along the Louisiana coast Friday night or Saturday.

“There is a fairly high chance that Tropical Storm Barry will become a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale before making landfall,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.


Tropical Storm Sepat To Threaten Japan With Flooding Downpours, Mudslides

Across the West Pacific, Tropical Storm Sepat will bring the potential for flooding and other impacts to Japan through Friday.

A tropical depression strengthened into Tropical Storm Sepat as it tracked south of mainland Japan on Thursday night, local time. The storm is also called Dodong in the Philippines.

The main impacts of Sepat will be rough surf and heavy rain across Japan.

Rain will expand over Shikoku and Honshu into Thursday night. Tokyo is expected to escape the heaviest rainfall on Thursday; however, a few downpours are possible late Thursday night into Friday morning.

The downpours lingering into Friday morning could result in a slower morning commute for the Greater Tokyo Area.

These downpours will increase the risk of flash flooding while also heightening the risk of mudslides, especially in areas of rugged terrain.

Another non-tropical storm system will spread a round of heavy rain across much of northern Japan from Thursday into Friday; however, Hokkaido will be largely spared with any rainfall limited to far southern parts of the island.

Travel disruptions are also possible, especially in areas that experience heavy rainfall around peak travel times.

Rough seas will be a concern for the southern and eastern coastline of Japan into Friday.

Another round of heavy rainfall is possible across South Korea and Japan this weekend as a storm arrives from China.

This heavy rainfall on top of the rain expected this week will bring an elevated risk for flooding and continue the threat of mudslides.

While the Philippines are forecast to avoid any direct impacts from this tropical system, moisture will be pulled across the country as the storm tracks northward and brings rounds of downpours to the country into this weekend.

The downpours will be most common in central and northern parts of the Philippines with western Luzon at greatest risk for flooding, mudslides and travel disruptions.