Professor Dar Roberts was interviewed on KEYT Channel 3’s 5:30 news program, speaking about the forecasting services his Southern California Wildfire Hazards Center (SCWHC) offers to firefighting agencies. Firefighting managers can log onto the SCWHC website and download 60-hour advance forecasts for mapped and animated weather parameters — wind directions and speeds, temperatures, air pressure, humidity, etc. The Wildfire Hazards Center computers have been programmed to automatically upload raw data from national sources, then generate finer resolution models in a format especially useful to those fighting fires in the urban-wildland interface.
Originally, NASA funded the project, and the Wildfire Hazards team purchased a “supercomputer,” implemented wind models, and developed remotely sensed measures of fuels. Then the Forest Service took over funding. With their financial support, the weather forecast modeling is now performed on a “Beowolf” cluster of personal computers, which are located at UCSB. The project is currently moving toward supplying fuel moisture data, too. The Hazards Center will obtain remote sensing data from NASA (MODIS) satellites and provide fuel moisture maps for the entire Western United States. (The moisture content in burnable materials is a critical factor in how easily it burns.)
Collaborators at UCSB include professors Catherine Gautier, Rick Church, and Joel Michaelsen; researchers Dr. Charles Jones, Meg Gardner, and Dylan Prentiss; and graduate students Marco Morais, Philip Dennison, and Theresa Smith.