LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Wildfires in Northern California have been destructive this season, but they have also been informative for fire weather researchers at San Jose State University.
SJSU scientists have deployed advanced Doppler radar and LiDAR technology near the front lines of fires to learn more about how fires behave and predict how they will spread, providing firefighters on the ground with useful information in practically real time.READ MORE: LAPD Arrests Two Suspects Responsible For Shooting In Watts
“It’s been a really busy time,” says Craig Clements, director of SJSU’s Fire Weather Research Laboratory (WIRC). “We’ve been running a modeling system for the Dixie Fire and the Caldor Fire operationally, so twice a day we run those forecasts.”
Clements says the technology, co-developed by SJSU faculty, blends a high resolution weather model with a fire prediction system that accurately forecasted aspects of the Caldor Fire’s spread. These models were sent to the state’s fire management agencies to help them plan the firefight on the ground.
Wildfires in Northern California this season have been destructive, but for fire weather researchers at San Jose State University, they have also been informative. https://t.co/6cSLTUpcnw
— KPIX 5 (@KPIXtv) September 3, 2021
“It actually matched up really well on a few of those critical nights on the Caldor fire,” Clements tells CBS station KPIX.READ MORE: Multi-Vehicle Crash In Irwindale Closes Multiple Lanes On 605 Freeway
The system does have limitations on how far in advance it can accurately forecast. But it can do something else standard weather forecasting can’t: factor in the winds created on the surface and in the plume by the fire itself, which often causes the most erratic behavior.
“We just don’t have a lot of observations in these mountainous areas,” Clements explains. “It’s important to get those observations to understand this extreme fire behavior we’ve been experiencing.”
Clements says the team is working on the next step in fire forecasting: where spot fires will happen ahead of the main fire.
“We’ll be able to predict where firebrands or embers land,” Clements says.MORE NEWS: Grundstrom Lifts Kings To 3-2 Win Over Devils
The team is hoping to put that into their fire modeling to help fight fires later this fall or next season.