AI Tech & society

ChatGPT: hallucinations about weather data

When I demoed ChatGPT to my undergraduate engineering students on Friday, I asked for a question from the class.

One is illustrated above: Seattle and Washington temperatures in 2010.

Students quickly turned to Dr. Google to fact-check ChatGPT.

Big oops, there, OpenAI.

We discussed challenges associated with using the tool, even for an overview of an issue. Later, I tried to track down where ChatGPT might have pulled that data.

ChatGPT question and answer
K.Gill, private communication with OpenAI’s chatGPT, Apr. 1, 2023.

I thought it would be straightforward to visit NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information to check the ChatGPT answer. Nope.

It wasn’t too difficult to find precipitation data for Washington state. None of my Seattle rainfall searches, however, worked.

Just as I was about to punt and use a local site that records SeaTac data, I stumbled on data for a city in Georgia. Eventually I successfully reverse engineered  the search.

On Friday, I recommended that students start with Wikipedia for any subject overview and critically examine its references.

I also provided a template for using and citing ChatGPT, as no citation style has yet to issue a format.

If you want to use chatGPT as a source, it will not count towards any assignment minimum. My requests:

    • Inline, reference thusly:
      According to OpenAI’s chatGPT [x], “short quote here” or paraphrase here.
    • Reference list
      [x]  K.Gill, private communication with OpenAI’s chatGPT, Jan. 8, 2023.
    • Add an appendix
      Title the page “Appendix”. Include a screen capture of the question and the answer.


By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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