IBM uses AI for flash flooding research in Appalachia

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Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 9:45 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 11:32 PM EST
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - On Thursday, International Business Machines (IBM) announced a partnership with several institutions, including The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, on the third part of the IBM Sustainability Accelerator Program.

The first group in the program focuses on sustainable agriculture, the second group focuses on clean energy and the third group will focus on water and sanitation.

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Within the water and sanitation group, there are five institutions doing various research.

Each institution focuses on a different part of the overall initiative. For the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, researchers will be using an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Geospatial Foundation Model to predict rainfall and flooding.

Its research areas will include Kentucky, West Virginia and North Carolina as these states have experienced flooding in recent years.

IBM Sustainability & Social Innovation Leader Corporate Social Responsibility, Michael Jacobs, said one of IBM’s major goals is to use technological resources to better vulnerable communities.

“This is a massive problem and it’s an urgent problem and floods of recent years show how critical it is to get to insights and recommendations for emergency managers and others,” said Jacobs.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Professor & Department Head and Donald Biggar Willett Distinguished Chair in Engineering Ana Barros added they hope to increase lead time so people have more time to get to safety in flash flood situations.

“And so the flash flood is a very localized event and in order to be able to really respond appropriately and prepare for it, it’s important to have a long lead time. Typically, currently, the lead times are either 3 or 6 hours.”

The program will be researching for the next two years as they map out previous patterns and predict future flooding events.

To find out how you can be a part of the study in the region, click here.