Earthformer: Exploring Space-Time Transformers for Earth System ForecastingDownload PDF

Published: 31 Oct 2022, Last Modified: 11 Jan 2023NeurIPS 2022 AcceptReaders: Everyone
Keywords: Machine Learning for Earth Science, Spatiotemporal Forecasting, Transformers
Abstract: Conventionally, Earth system (e.g., weather and climate) forecasting relies on numerical simulation with complex physical models and hence is both expensive in computation and demanding on domain expertise. With the explosive growth of spatiotemporal Earth observation data in the past decade, data-driven models that apply Deep Learning (DL) are demonstrating impressive potential for various Earth system forecasting tasks. The Transformer as an emerging DL architecture, despite its broad success in other domains, has limited adoption in this area. In this paper, we propose Earthformer, a space-time Transformer for Earth system forecasting. Earthformer is based on a generic, flexible and efficient space-time attention block, named Cuboid Attention. The idea is to decompose the data into cuboids and apply cuboid-level self-attention in parallel. These cuboids are further connected with a collection of global vectors. We conduct experiments on the MovingMNIST dataset and a newly proposed chaotic $N$-body MNIST dataset to verify the effectiveness of cuboid attention and figure out the best design of Earthformer. Experiments on two real-world benchmarks about precipitation nowcasting and El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecasting show that Earthformer achieves state-of-the-art performance.
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TL;DR: We propose Earthformer with novel generic building blocks "Cuboid Attention" to explore the design of space-time attention for Earth system forecasting problems, and achieve SOTA performance on two synthetic datasets and two real-world benchmarks.
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