climate in crisis

Climate in Crisis: Forecasting Wildfires

NBC Universal, Inc.

As California fire seasons continue to grow longer and more intense, the need to better predict wildfire behavior has never been greater.

This is where the SJSU WRF-SFire model could be a game changer, showing the ability to accurately predict the path of this year's major wildfire's including the Caldor Fire that moved into the Tahoe Basin.

Dr. Craig Clements with the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC) says the model performed well most recently on the Caldor Fire despite the challenges of shifting winds, highly variable wildfire fuels and terrain.

The SJSU WRF-SFire model is also what is considered a high resolution model at 500 meters resolution, capable of pinpoint local impacts such as air quality or vertical smoke dispersion which can greatly impact air operations/visibility on major wildfires. This also causes a tremendous data processing/storing need that is being handled via the High Performance Computing center also on campus.

Based on interest from fire agencies including CalFire, Clements says the goal is to provide more data sets assigned to individual wildfires as the team continues to improve upn the SFire weather model. In the next year this will include more rapid updates including thermal camera imaging done by plane near/over fire zones and heat detection by satellites which can better keep pace with spot fires for example that can take off rapidly especially in windy, drought-enhanced conditions.

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