Workshop: Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning

Using uncertainty-aware machine learning models to study aerosol-cloud interactions

MaĆ«lys Solal · Andrew Jesson · Yarin Gal · Alyson Douglas


Aerosol-cloud interactions (ACI) include various effects that result from aerosols entering a cloud, and affecting cloud properties. In general, an increase in aerosol concentration results in smaller droplet sizes which leads to larger, brighter, longer-lasting clouds that reflect more sunlight and cool the Earth. The strength of the effect is however heterogeneous, meaning it depends on the surrounding environment, making ACIs one of the most uncertain effects in our current climate models. In our work, we use causal machine learning to estimate ACI from satellite observations by reframing the problem as a treatment (aerosol) and outcome (change in droplet radius). We predict the causal effect of aerosols on clouds with bounds of uncertainty depending on the unknown factors that may be influencing the impact of aerosols. Of the three climate models evaluated, we find that only one plausibly recreates the trend, lending more credence to its estimate cooling due to ACI.

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