Data science could help Californians battle future wildfires

phys.org | 9/7/2010 | Staff
yana.booyana.boo (Posted by) Level 4
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A major wildfire spread through Colorado, and I spent long hours locating shelters, identifying evacuation routes and piecing together satellite imagery.

As the Fourmile Canyon Fire devastated areas to the west of Boulder, ultimately destroying 169 homes and causing US$217 million in damage, my biggest concerns were ensuring that people could safely evacuate and first responders had the best chance of keeping the fire at bay.

Thing - September

The oddest thing about that September 7, 2010?

I spent it sitting comfortably in my home in Bloomington, Indiana, a thousand miles away from the action.

Volunteer - Fire - Victims - Webpage - Data

I was a volunteer, trying to help fire victims. I had created a webpage to aggregate data about the fire, including the location of shelters and the latest predictions of fire spread. I shared it on Twitter in the hope that someone would find it useful; according to the usage statistics, over 40,000 people did.

Today, researchers like myself are finding transformative new ways to use data and computational methods—what we call data science—to help planners, leaders and first responders tackle disasters like wildfires from afar.

Kind - Work

The kind of work I do is increasingly necessary.

As I write this, wildfires are threatening homes across California. Vast areas are without electricity, due to the power company PG&E taking extreme measures to prevent downed power lines from igniting new fires, cutting off power to more than 2 million people.

Winds - Conditions - Fires - Product - Change

Fueled by strong winds and dry conditions, these fires are a product of climate change.

It's not just California where crisis is the new normal. Areas hit by hurricanes in 2017, such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are still struggling to recover. Here in the Midwest, we are dealing with unprecedented floods every year, caused by extreme rainfalls driven by climate change.

Federal - Aid - Agencies - FEMA - Response

Federal aid agencies like FEMA just can't scale their response fast enough to meet the needs...
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