US Army Corps of Engineers uses Azure for storm modeling

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(Photo: Brian McGowan / Unsplash)
The US Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority are teaming up with Microsoft to better prepare the state for hurricanes. Agencies use Azure Government, a government-specific Microsoft computing and analytics tool, to model synthetic storms and determine the best ways to avoid the need for future evacuation and reconstruction.

After the US Army Corps Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) launched the pilot project under the Department of Defense’s High Performance Computing Modernization (HPCMP) program, Microsoft awarded ERDC an award AI for Earth grant, which aims to “put Microsoft Cloud and AI tools in the hands of those working to solve global environmental challenges.” The Louisiana Authority and the Army Corps will run CSTORM-MS, a high-capacity storm modeling system, on Azure to explore the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to gather information on storms. They will begin by studying how seawater could move up the Mississippi River during a major storm and affect coastal communities.

The Mississippi River, a major economic engine for Louisiana, is also a flood risk during hurricanes and other major storms. (Photo: Justin Wilkens / Unsplash)

In the wake of catastrophic disasters such as Hurricanes Ida and Katrina (as well as the growing urgency of climate change), it is imperative that the government find ways to mitigate the effects of tropical storms. Using Azure, the Army Corps can decide which infrastructure at risk of flooding to prioritize, as well as its location. Levees and levees are essential in mitigating the impact of hurricanes on neighboring communities, but precisely where they are built makes all the difference. Placing a dike in one location can lead to flooding in another, for example, and the margin for error is slim. “If you build a dike that stretches for about 10, 20 miles and you have to have error tolerance on the height of that dike, you’re talking millions of dollars if you have to build it higher,” The Mathematician ERDC researcher Chris Massey told Microsoft.

Agencies have already imitated more than 2,300 computerized storms before joining Azure Government. Resources have historically been scarce; The bulk of CSTORM’s work requires the team to use Defense Ministry supercomputers, which are in high demand by researchers involved in COVID-19 mapping and military analysis. Azure will allow ERDC to bypass potential delays caused by this demand and be able to respond effectively during an active storm.

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