Artificial Intelligence @ SAIS Creag Meagaidh

30th March 2023

(Above) Poor visibility during the morning at Beinn a Chaorainn. Snow cover is now very patchy with just a few old slumping cornices around the eastern perimeter of this mountain.


(Above) A better impression of snow cover when the mist cleared in the afternoon.


(Above) The Big Picture. Puist Coire Ardair, Sron a Ghoire, the Post Face of Coire Ardair and ‘The Window’. Effective snow line creeping up to around 900m but some gullies hold snow as low as 750m.


The Swiss have been dabbling with Artificial Intelligence (AI) as an avalanche forecasting tool since last year.  See here:

With AI chatbots now very definitely a ‘thing’ I thought it would be interesting to get the chatbot ChatGPT to have a go at writing the avalanche forecast for SAIS Creag Meagaidh for tomorrow, Friday.

What could possibly go wrong?

To be fair, the chatbot had a pretty good stab at it given the fairly sparse guidance I supplied. It definitely knew something about avalanches in a generic (orthodox) way but appeared not to understand the vagaries of the Scottish variant in its current form, as shown in the first example below.

(I gave it some basic weather, snowpack, and distribution parameters to work with and it came up with the following):

 It composed that in about 5 seconds.

Outcome: In the region of ‘Considerable’ hazard??

That’s definitely a fail, then!


I led it by the nose a bit in the second iteration, adding ‘Good stability everywhere’ as a descriptor, below:

‘Moderate’ hazard?

Better! But no cigar…

I’m told the bot does learn and will improve its ability to deal with something like a simple forecast. In its current form, it’s just not a useful tool since it took as long for me to set up the conditions/parameters as it would to write a publishable avalanche forecast. (I think the Swiss are using a very powerful, bespoke, predictive AI they developed themselves just for avalanche forecasting).

It’s probably the future though.


Feeling playful, I thought I’d see how it fared with a bit of a ‘curve ball’…..

….as a Shakespearean sonnet’, I hear you say.

OK, if you insist…

Hours of fun are possible with this thing!

Comments on this post

  • Keith Horner
    30th March 2023 7:22 pm

    Ha – absolutely brilliant post…… you’re clearly not having to spend enough time on the hill at the moment, not surprising though given current dearth of snow cover…! We’ll be expecting future avalanche forecasts to be set to a Burns sonnet, or written in Glasgae banter or Doric….

    When asked ‘what are full on Scottish conditions’, the chatbox did give a fairly accurate 4 line response, so someone must have programmed it well……

    I do wonder though if AI can ever fully grasp the nuances of avalanche forecasting, especially in Scotland with such rapidly changing conditions and such a diversity of variables of snow type and quantity, wind direction and speed, temperature, altitude, slope gradient and aspect etc. I suppose over time the process of ‘marginal gains’ will improve the accuracy of forecasting due to a progressive increase in the underlying knowledge base but whether it could ever be considered 100% accurate is doubtful?

  • JT
    30th March 2023 9:29 pm

    Very topical and very good! Think Creag Meagaidh wins the internet with this blog today…

  • Stan Wygladala
    31st March 2023 2:43 am

    Horrifying prospect of AI interference. We need to say WHY ? when it is such a difficult subject. No substitute for human perception.
    Spent a proportion of my life dealing with IT and IS I always remember “ rubbish in, rubbish out” and this still applies with AI.
    Good conversation with AI recently until I asked for comment on electricity pylons and the orientation of cattle with and without the pylons. Total meltdown of communication, as no-one had prepped Deep Thought on this. Was told by GCHQ not to mess with it again as it caused problems.
    Will try again with question on carp fishing in the night in Lancashire. I might get prohibited to further communications.
    And what does it know about boggarts?

  • Steve Christian
    31st March 2023 8:34 am

    Love this, not fully redundant though until the chatbot becomes a robot and can walk into the corrie under it’s own steam. Even then not sure how Lithium batteries and electronic circuit boards will cope in a dreich hoolie

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