Feeling the Heat and Fighting Back

Extreme wildfires are an ever-present danger in the state. For over a decade, the high-speed data transmission network of the UC San Diego-based High-Performance Wireless and Research Education Network (HPWREN) has provided a public safety net for the region. The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), an organized research unit at UC San Diego, and the Qualcomm Institute maintain backbone nodes on the network, which connect hard-to-reach areas in remote environments.

In summer 2013, when firefighters battled the fast-moving, 7,000-acre Chariot Fire near Mount Laguna, east of San Diego, HPWREN’s camera images and data were accessed by more than ten thousand people, including the news media and first responders. The network’s fire station connections, environmental cameras, and meteorological and other sensors were used early on to assist firefighters and other emergency personnel.

The WIFIRE CI (cyberinfrastructure) is a logical next step. The project entails building an end-to-end cyberinfrastructure to perform real-time and data-driven assessment, simulation, prediction, and visualization of wildfire behavior. The WIFIRE CI will encompass the remote sensor network that is currently part of HPWREN.

Integration of this sensor data into rapidly available fire image data and models should improve situational awareness, responses, and decision support at local, state, national, and international levels.

California is also riddled with geological fault lines. In 2013, a team of researchers at the SDSC and the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering developed a computer code that drastically cuts research times and energy costs in simulating seismic hazards.

The accelerated code, which facilitates petaflop-level, regional earthquake simulations for use in earthquake engineering and disaster management, is part of a computational effort coordinated by the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC). San Diego State University (SDSU) is also part of this collaborative program.