Environmental intelligence

Studentship with IBM uses artificial intelligence to boost climate resilience.

We are currently working with IBM on a new PhD studentship, which brings together experts in AI and environmental intelligence to help predict the impacts of climate change. 

aerial view of the coastline

The University of Exeter and IBM are working together on a PHD Studentship, which will explore Bayesian methods for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to help accurately predict the impacts of climate change.  

The project connects the University of Exeter’s experts in environmental intelligence with IBM Research, whose Climate and Sustainability research programme is currently exploring how AI can be used to help build resilience to climate change by quantifying the risk of extreme climate events.  

One area of focus is the development of data-driven climate impact models which use traditional AI methods and a rapidly increasing volume of in-situ and remote-sensed earth observation data, to predict the impacts of climate change. 

The studentship aims to overcome a key gap in this research to date – namely, the need to develop a methodology which better accounts for the variety across climate impact models and data, especially with regard to ‘uncertainty’. Failing to correctly account for uncertainties when building and deploying climate models can result in over-confident predictions, which are at risk of being considered unreliable and inaccurate.  

The project addresses this gap using Bayesian hierarchical modelling, which has the potential to enable hybrid climate models to produce more reliable and well-calibrated probabilities of high-impact climate events. 

Once established, the new methodology will be tested for real-world applications that are in development at IBM, improving prediction of climate hazards such as floods and heatwaves, and their impact on buildings, energy networks, transport and communications.  

“Accurate, locally-precise predictions of the impacts of climate change are urgently needed across multiple commercial sectors, such as supply chain, financial services, energy, utilities, and infrastructure management. But currently, many of the sources of uncertainty involved in such predictions are completely ignored. Using the methodology developed in the project, we will able to provide organisations with better information about where to focus their resources, enabling much more efficient climate resilience planning.”


Dr Anne Jones

Senior Research Scientist in Climate and Sustainability at IBM Research

The studentship will be delivered through the University of Exeter’s Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Environmental Intelligence. The Centre represents a step change in environmental education and research, by taking a holistic, interdisciplinary approach when training environmental scientists.  

"The studentship is an exciting example of the value of interdisciplinary approaches to climate change, which harness our expertise in environmental intelligence to make real solutions possible. We are excited to partner with IBM on this project, which shows how the Centre for Doctoral Training can deliver environmental intelligence training needed to meet the challenge of adapting and building resilience to climate risks.”  


Professor Hywel Williams

Associate Professor in Data Science at the University of Exeter and Director of the Centre

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