Hackathon Video Mentoring Space
Here research professionals share expertise and guidance on wildfire solutions
Finding Wildfire Innovations - William Anderegg
00:00:00:00 - 00:00:41:20
I'm William Anderegg. I'm an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences here at the U. And the director of the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy. I want to share some thoughts about potential solutions and priorities to consider in the prediction and forecasting area in this wildfire challenge. First, I think there's a huge amount of potential for seasonal forecasts of fire risks, things that combine fuels data, climate data and weather and climate models, potentially with some new advanced machine learning and A.I. techniques.
00:00:41:22 - 00:01:07:15
Second, a pretty promising idea is thinking about more multiyear forecasting and long-term risks that communities are likely to face, particularly those that include climate change and how climate change is going to really supercharge wild fire behavior and fire weather in many areas. And third, I think there's a huge amount of potential for smoke forecasts and how the impacts a fire affect health.
00:01:07:15 - 00:01:36:18
And we can start to project those going forward into the future in a changing climate. Finally, when kind of underlying piece that you might think about is I think there's a huge amount of scope for combining a whole bunch of different data sets that are not typically combined together. These include things like satellite data, data from weather models and a bunch of community and demography types of data to see where folks are and how many people might be in harm's way.
00:01:36:24 - 00:02:13:06
As wildfires change in coming years. I see some really exciting opportunities for innovation here in really pulling in the best available science about future climate projections and how those are likely to change wildfire behavior, frequency, and different fire characteristics. You know, a lot of our tools are based on the past and how fires have behaved in the past 30, 40 years, and that's changing rapidly with drier conditions here in the west, hotter temperatures and more extreme fire weather.
00:02:13:06 - 00:02:38:25
And so we really need our tools to pull in these best projections of future climate change, to have better forecasts in coming years. On this critical aspect of how can we mitigate risk from wildfires? You know, I think there are a number of possible intervention points that you might want to think about. Just to name a couple of the commonly considered ones.
00:02:38:28 - 00:03:03:09
First is the broad scale way we manage forests and how we can manage forests to try to reduce the likelihood and severity of fires that get started. So these are often ways to reduce the fuels found in forests through things like selective timber harvest or prescribed fires. That's kind of the landscape regional set of strategies. So we might think about zooming in a little bit more.
00:03:03:15 - 00:03:27:26
There's a huge number of strategies around community planning and how do we set up our communities to try to minimize the people in harm's way and minimize the amount of structures and infrastructure that's at risk. There's also thinking about fire hardening and defensive spaces and fuel breaks. And when individual fires start, try to reduce the risk to certain areas in our communities.
00:03:27:28 - 00:03:50:27
And then zooming in a bit more, there's a whole set of strategies around fire hardening of structures, potentially new innovations in building materials, and how we can try to make sure that when fires get close, maybe they're not as damaging to structures as they could be. A couple of key questions to grapple with in this risk mitigation space.
00:03:51:02 - 00:04:20:12
You know, first, what's the evidence out there about how effective are different interventions into reducing fire risk? You know, second, what are the costs, some of the barriers, some of the tradeoffs and potentially some of the co-benefits of these different interventions that we discussed. You know, how can we help ensure that many vulnerable and marginalized communities also have access and can deploy some of these interventions?
00:04:20:14 - 00:05:05:15
Finally, we really want to think about how policies help can drive or incentivize these various interventions. And this could be at local, state, and national levels. Here, I think there's some exciting potential in innovations that pull in our extensive satellite record of how fires have behaved in the past. Pull in some of these climate model projections and leverage some of our cutting-edge machine learning and AI techniques to actually build models of where fire risks are and how different interventions can reduce those fire risks, how we can deploy those, and really how we can do our best to reduce risks to people and to ecosystems around the U.S.
00:05:05:18 - 00:05:17:16
Good luck in this hackathon. It's an exciting area and we can't wait to see the solutions that you all come up with!
Indoor Air Quality - Heather Holmes
My name is Heather Holmes. I'm an associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering here at the University of Utah. My background is in mechanical engineering and atmospheric science, and the research I focus on is understanding how air pollution moves throughout the atmosphere and then also how the air pollution is impacting human health. So in this video, I'm going to talk about ways that people can try to mitigate their exposure to wildfire smoke and some potential ideas that can try and help them so that they're protecting their health.
Currently, a lot of things get canceled when there's wildfire smoke. So if you think about sporting events and activities that you're going to do outside. So, for example, they canceled Ironman Lake Tahoe one year. When I was living in Reno, because the smoke was so bad. So basically, a lot of current things are basically avoid smoke. And so if you're canceling all these outdoor activities or for example, the state of California actually has occupational health rules around what outdoor workers can be exposed to in terms of smoke.
That means if the smoke's too high, these people are sent home from work and that's preventing them from being exposed to this. That means people then go indoors. So you're saying if you get out of the outside environment, you're going to get away from the smoke and then you're going to go inside your home or inside an office building or inside another facility to try and get away from the smoke.
But some homes, for example, have different infiltration rates and so air from outside can end up inside your home. Or maybe you're drawing air in through your heating system or cooling system, and you need filters on that big, big buildings that you have at school and things like that. They have big air handling units. And so those have filters.
So, going indoors would be better than being outside in the case of having a big smoke event. But everybody that's inside isn't necessarily exposed to this same level of smoke because the indoor variability can be significant. So let's talk a little bit more about that indoor air quality. So the EPA has guidance online. (See link below) about what you can do when there is unhealthy levels of wildfire smoke outside.
They do mention that you can get extra filtration in your home. So for example, in the middle of COVID, people were buying these like air cleaning units to put in their homes. You can do something similar for air pollution, so you can get a device that you put in your home that will filter out bad air. So that would filter out the smoke in this case.
They also have a way that you can make your own. You can imagine that these filtration devices get more and more expensive to get cleaner and cleaner air. So sometimes it becomes cost prohibitive. So they show how you can make one out of like a box fan and just buying filters that you would put in your home furnace.
And also, those filters can get expensive because the more efficient a filter is at filtering out particles, for example, the more expensive it's going to be. So like your N95 mask, it costs much more than those paper surgical masks that you used in COVID. But that's because they work better at filtering out these particles. So you can do these steps in your home, but that's not equitable for everyone to have access to.
Right? Like if somebody does not have the money to buy this filtration device and maybe their children have asthma and they want to protect their children from this smoke because it will make them have an asthma attack, there needs to be other resources. So, one potential idea is to use something like the cooling centers. So, if you've not heard about this, you can Google cooling centers.
We actually have a few in the state of Utah. And basically, what the idea behind this is, is that in the summertime, when you have really bad heat events or heat waves, the temperature gets unbearable for people. And that will actually cause really bad health complications if you're too hot and some people don't have air conditioning units or maybe they just can't afford to cool their home, there's these cooling centers that people can go to, and so they go inside this cooling center.
The CDC has a report. (Also see link below), about the effectiveness of these centers and kind of like how they work. And that is aimed at trying to provide a community resilience opportunity for people that cannot have access to this air conditioning. So doing something like that for the smoke, which smoke, and heat waves sometimes go together.
So, you can maybe leverage existing cooling center resources and facilities to just add on smoke centers where people can go to get out of the smoke. So, wildfires are not going away. The changing climate and increasing drought and fuels management practices are going to lead to bigger fires, more smoke in the coming years. So, this is a very important problem that impacts communities all over the United States.
There's been so much press in the East now, even with Canadian wildfires and things like that. And there's a lot of people that do suffer from things like asthma or bronchitis, or smoke even impacts your heart health. So, if you're maybe a little bit older and at risk for heart complications, inhaling that smoke can be very harmful for you.
So, finding solutions that can help us limit our exposure to that smoke, especially at home, in the comfort of our own environment, would be awesome. So, I look forward to seeing what you all come up with and I want to see some really creative solutions.
Smoke Forecasting - John Lin
00:00:00:00 - 00:00:32:08
My name is John Lin, and I'm the associate director of the Wilkes Center, as well as a professor in atmospheric sciences. And on the topic of wildfires, my group has done research on wildfires in the past several years. What we found, first of all, is that the air quality in the Western U.S. is getting worse, especially in the months of August and September.
00:00:32:14 - 00:01:12:03
And we were able to trace that additional pollution to wildfires and specific fires, specific regions. It's pretty clear that wildfires due to climate change are making things worse in terms of air quality. We've also found some interesting trends in terms of wildfire plumes, the smoke from wildfires getting higher, and that has impacts on further downwind directions. And probably we've all seen the example of that this summer in 2023.
00:01:12:06 - 00:01:40:02
Now, we don't want to just understand the problem. We want to do something about it. And that's a real theme of this hackathon. So given the problem of wildfires and air quality, how do we mitigate this problem? Okay. And when I think about it, it's a really tough problem because some of these are long term issues.
00:01:40:02 - 00:02:05:00
It can't be easily solved in one day. That being said, one thing I think where we can really make progress on is looking at short term forecasts of wildfires. Let's say if you knew about wildfires happening to the next day or two or even several days out, what can you do and really want to push you to think about this?
00:02:05:00 - 00:02:29:12
You and your team think about this as part of the hackathon. Now, before we do that, I just want to point you on sort of the cutting edge in terms of wildfire forecast right now. So right now, that forecast is coming from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and that is a federal agency that also runs the National Weather Service.
00:02:29:14 - 00:02:59:03
And they have sort of an experimental product called HRRR Smoke. H-R-R-R Smoke. And if you look at the forecast page, you know, right here, you can see what her smoke delivers and you could probably think about lots of ways to use the data, but also ways to improve it. Okay. So that's something I want you to think about.
00:02:59:03 - 00:03:26:28
You know, given the state of forecasts, what can you do with this information? You know, is it user friendly enough? If not, what can you make it more user friendly? This is a communication problem. And let's say if you deliver this information to the hands of the public, what can they do about it? You know, if you know, wildfires are coming, the smoke is coming.
00:03:27:00 - 00:03:38:06
So good luck in this contest. And I look forward to seeing your ideas.
Alert Systems and Mitigation Strategies - Kerry Kelly
Salt Lake County AirView Map
00:00:00:00 - 00:00:28:09
I'm Kerry Kelly. I'm an associate professor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah. So for the welfare hackathon, I'm going to talk about alert systems and mitigations strategies. So right now, the state provides daily forecasts at the county level, and that's a little bit of a challenge for us because we live in what's called complex terrain with mountains and valleys.
00:00:28:12 - 00:00:58:15
So, sometimes a forecast for a whole county might not reflect where you are. So, for example, like during our wintertime inversions, if you're up high in the mountains, air quality is great. But if you're down low in the valley, it's not. We can have similar things happen, especially with local wildfire plumes, because depending upon how it's transported, we have had times when we had a big fire down in Spanish Fork and the southern part of the Salt Lake Valley had very high levels of particulate matter.
00:00:58:17 - 00:01:22:17
Yet if you were up like towards Davis County, air quality was actually pretty good. So those are sometimes when the county level prediction might be hard and then real time information is really useful. And so that's an opportunity for innovation. Another opportunity for innovation is low-cost sensors are becoming more and more ubiquitous. They're much more cost effective.
00:01:22:17 - 00:01:49:05
You're starting to see people put them indoors and outdoors, and so you can gather that data and use that to get a good picture of what air quality is actually like where you are. That's particularly important in Utah, where we have over half of our counties have no reliable air quality monitor and no forecast. So, if you're trying to make decisions about, you know, should I go outside, should I go for a run, you just don't have that information.
00:01:49:07 - 00:02:12:19
So, we're working on some projects to try to leverage low-cost air quality sensors and use some outlier and some correction strategies to give information to communities that currently don't have them. So, for wildfire mitigation, one of the biggest things we can do is avoid starting wildfires. And the state's been doing a much better job in reducing the number of human caused wildfires.
00:02:12:19 - 00:02:35:13
But I think there's still room for improvement on that. And so, the next step you could do, besides not having the fire start would be to mitigate your exposure. So, to reduce your exposure and some of these plumes from wildfires can lead to very unhealthy levels of air quality. So, people often recommend work moving inside and typically that is a good solution.
00:02:35:15 - 00:03:01:09
But we have found even at the University of Utah campus, that air quality can reach unhealthy levels even inside our buildings. So that's where air filtration and working with building management comes in. So, it turns out those you can buy little portable air filters. Those are super they're cheap. You can actually build one with a box fan and a little HEPA filter, and that can do a decent job filtering air quality where you are.
00:03:01:09 - 00:03:22:28
That can be very protective. So that's a good solution for individuals. Even classrooms have them. It's a good thing to do. If you ever buy one, just buy one that only does filtration. Don't buy filters that say they disinfect, produce positive ions or other types of things. Some of those actually generate ozone, and ozone is harmful to your lungs and is just another important pollutant.
00:03:22:28 - 00:03:47:18
So, you don't want to be causing pollution indoors with your filters. So, the other thing you can do with air quality and exposure is mitigate the times that you're exercising. So, wildfire smoke can also lead to elevated levels of ozone. And so, ozone tends to peak in the early to midafternoon. So, if you were going to exercise, you would want to do it earlier in the day.
00:03:47:21 - 00:04:13:26
But again, look out for particle concentrations as well. You don't you want to avoid exertion if you've got elevated levels of particle pollution and you can follow the state's AQI color code on that air quality index, color code. Sure. There are a couple of things you could do. One is the Salt Lake County Health Department has something called the AirView map that they actually grew out of.
00:04:13:26 - 00:04:33:
Our research here at the University of Utah. So, you can look at that. That'll give you a real time estimate of what air quality is everywhere in the Salt Lake Valley. And the goal is to expand that. That's one place they could go. They can go to UCAIR. U-C-A-I-R-dot O-R-G, and you can look at what you can do.
00:04:33:13 - 00:04:57:02
Those are some simple strategies for reducing air pollution and reducing air pollution exposure. You can also look at the Salt Lake County Health Department, they've got an air quality site. They have some things on what you can do and a little bit about exposure mitigation strategies. So those would be some resources that students could go to start with.
00:04:57:04 - 00:05:13:21
So good luck to all of you. I think there's a lot of really interesting work that can be done in this area and it's really important to all of us because we all breathe the downstream smoke from these fires. So good luck.
Wildfire Risk Mitigation, Part 1 - Kyle Yurkovich, US Forest Service
00:00:01:16 - 00:00:30:04
I'm Kyle Yurkovich, I am the fire prevention officer for the Uinta- Wasatch Cache National Forest here in northern Utah. I am going to be talking with you about risk mitigation and community resilience as it relates to wildland fire management. I have been in fire management for 20 years. I've got a degree from Ohio State University in Natural Resources Management.
00:00:30:07 - 00:01:06:28
I've worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in northern Minnesota, worked on the Umpqua National Forest for two seasons on hand crews and engines. Spent four years at the state of Utah on a hotshot crew. Worked as a civilian employee with the Department of Defense doing prescribed fire management in the Florida Panhandle. And then over the last ten years or so, I've been working with at risk youth through a federal vocational school called Job Corps, where we've trained and then taken students out on wildland fire assignments and train them up to go work in wildland fire dispatch.
00:01:07:00 - 00:01:31:28
In there, I also spent some time in hazardous fuels management and prescribed fire management here on the Wasatch Back and the western Uintas. And currently I'm in fire prevention and education for a local forest unit, the Uinta- Wasatch Cache. So, we're going to talk about risk mitigation. So, what does that mean, mitigating risk? Well, to what end and in what capacity?
00:01:31:28 - 00:01:59:28
And in exactly what does that mean within the context of fire management and landscape stewardship? What we're really talking about there is hazardous fuels. What's hazardous fuels means that is when we're talking about vegetation on the landscape that can burn and is that going to lead to a high severity and some negative fire effects is what we would call it.
00:02:00:01 - 00:02:29:04
So those impacts from that burning. So, as you can imagine, if you've got a hillside covered in grass, when that burns, it's going to burn pretty quickly. It's probably not going to burn very hot, and that heat isn't going to stay on landscape a long time. So how much that heat gets down into the soil, into the seedbed and kind of what the long-term consequences of that is going to be versus fire burning in dense timber and how hot and how long that fire could potentially burn.
00:02:29:06 - 00:02:58:06
Is that going to sterilize the soil, wipe out that seedbed so that you can have a tough time for things to come back? Those kinds of fire effects and us trying to take some action, proactive action to mitigate that. That's really what we're talking about with risk mitigation. Here in northern Utah, when we're talking about risk mitigation and that kind of hazardous fuels reduction, hazardous fuels management, we're really looking at impacts to people's homes.
00:02:58:06 - 00:03:20:00
So, when we talk about the wildland-urban interface, really where homes and infrastructure are built right up against our wild lands, if we can put in fuel breaks to make sure if we have a fire, it's going to hopefully not impact that community as much. Those homes, those businesses, that energy infrastructure and all those things that go with it.
00:03:20:03 - 00:03:41:25
The other thing is watersheds. So watershed management in in northern Utah and really across the intermountain west, extremely important. We're living in the high desert and if we have fires burn in the wrong place at the wrong time of the year and we get those really high intensity and high severity fire effects, we can end up with a lot of literally negative downstream effects.
00:03:42:02 - 00:04:17:08
So, once we, if we have that kind of high intensity, high severity fire, we're now taking the vegetation off the landscape that has maybe been preventing erosion. So now those hillsides and those mountainsides are more prone to erosion. You've got now a lot of ash and other debris that's available to run off and go into those drainages. With that ash and all that burn material, you're now going to have a high impact on the quantity and quality of the water that's entering that drainage into that watershed that might be available.
00:04:17:11 - 00:04:40:03
So, you know, we've got kind of water capture facilities that go into municipal waterways. If you have a really high intensity, high severity fire, that's a really large acreage that's impacting that watershed, all of that is going to end up clogging up those kind of water intake facilities that's providing water to that community or maybe for industry or agriculture.
00:04:40:06 - 00:05:02:10
And that's a really big investment to try to clean those facilities, make that water available again. And then that's also an impact on the water quality. So not only are you talking about water that's kind of now carrying a lot of sediment and a lot of ash and a lot of debris that, again, could clog up and damage those facilities.
00:05:02:13 - 00:05:31:03
But you're also talking about potential chemicals leaching into that water facility may not even be equipped to deal with. So, when we can get out of the landscape and again, risk mitigation, that's what we're talking about, reducing those hazardous fuels, breaking up the continuity. So, you know, instead of having a large block of that vegetation out of the hillside, if we can break that up.
00:05:31:03 - 00:05:53:16
So our fire can't move as quickly or severely across the landscape, that's going to help limit those effects. And so, what does that look like? We've got a few tools in the toolbox. One is taking folks out with chainsaws, primarily cutting vegetation, and that can be in a mature forest where you're clearing out some of the understory, what we call ladder fuels.
00:05:53:19 - 00:06:17:25
And that's basically the pathway to take fire from the surface, from the forest floor up into the canopy of a tree. So, if we can limit the ability of that fire to move vertically into the forest canopy, that then is going to keep that fire from moving around a crown. And then we're also just taking some of the fuel load out of that out of that forest, out of that stand.
00:06:17:27 - 00:06:45:18
So, folks going through with chainsaws, cutting small diameter trees, trying to open up that canopy spacing, we call it. So, if you imagine two pine trees next to each other, the distance from kind of the edge of one canopy to the edge of the other, that separation, we're trying to keep that open. And they can also be removing brush, dead and down material that's on the forest floor, really just trying to reduce some of those fuels.
00:06:45:18 - 00:07:04:16
And so, they're going to collect that material. They're going to put it in a pile, and that can be a whole bunch of small piles that can be one very large one. And then when conditions are appropriate, usually in the fall and the winter, when we get some moisture on our side, firefighting resources will go out and burn those piles to reduce that material.
00:07:04:18 - 00:07:24:19
And then you've kind of you've treated that area. The other way we can do that is with equipment, what we call mastication, which is a similar objective where you're trying to reduce the amount of material out there. But instead of that material being put into a pile and then burned to get rid of it, you're really dispersing it.
00:07:24:21 - 00:07:44:22
And so what the masticator is really and there's a few different types, but they can be mounted on kind of a skid steer or an ASV-tracked equipment or on an excavator where instead of a bucket on the end of the arm, you basically have a big drum that's covered in in teeth. You can kind of think of it like a woodchipper that's out in the air.
00:07:44:24 - 00:08:19:23
And then that machine can go through and basically treat that area, remove a lot of the material and you're talking surface to volume. So, you're now taking a tree that's available to burn and you're reducing it to chips that are then covering the forest floor. Where that can be especially effective is where we have a lot of juniper that are moving up into sage areas that juniper didn't always inhibit or inhabit, rather.
00:08:19:26 - 00:08:54:26
And part of that is due to fire suppression that, you know, when you had a more regular occurrence of fire, they would push Juniper and kind of keep them up and up on the slopes. With the removal of fire from that ecosystem we've seen Juniper coming back down into the valley in a lot of places across the west, especially with our basin and range environments where you would have had open kind of open sage areas that are now going to be encroached by Juniper. Mastication is a really effective way to be able to remove those trees without having a huge impact on the rest of the area.
00:08:54:28 - 00:09:18:10
Also, if you drive up Parley’s Canyon here on I-80, in Salt Lake City, going towards Park City, you'll see a whole bunch of oak brush along the mountain. And it's all kind of broken up looking like puzzle pieces. Now, that's in part to some of our partners with the State of Utah and some utility companies that have been running tracked excavators with masticators in there, again, breaking up that continuity.
00:09:18:10 - 00:09:46:23
So, we had the Parley’s Fire in, what was that 2019, 20, 21? A couple of years ago. And that was able to burn really off the edge of the highway and make its way all the way up, basically to the ridge. And we were luckily able to able to catch that. But now with that, the continuity of that oak being broken up by the masticators, it doesn't quite give that fire the ability to run as quickly and as far without being completely unimpeded.
00:09:46:25 - 00:10:13:07
So, it's kind of these small fuel breaks, if you will, using the masticator. So, those are the two big mechanical means that we have. And then the other real tool in our toolbox is prescribed fire. What you might hear referred to is as a broadcast burn. And that's where we're going out and setting control lines around a particular area and then going back and actually reintroducing fire into that ecosystem to reduce those hazardous fuels.
00:10:13:13 - 00:10:29:15
Again, we're talking about risk mitigation and trying to take some of the oomph out of that chunk of the landscape. So, it can't burn with that high severity and high intensity if we have the wrong fire in the wrong place at the wrong time and then also allowing fire to play its natural role.
00:10:29:15 - 00:11:04:00
So, we have a lot of species here in northern Utah that are particularly fire adapted and fire evolved and need fire is really part of their natural cycle and reproduction and getting fire back into those stands. Yeah, just really allows that force that stand that ecosystem to function in a more natural way. So that's really our big are big tools in the toolbox for how we're able to execute risk mitigation when it comes to hazardous fuel reduction.
Wildfire Risk Mitigation, Part 2 - Kyle Yurkovich, US Forest Service
USU - Western Aspen Alliance
US Forest Service - Wildfire Crisis Strategy
00:00:00:00 - 00:00:33:25
Hi, I'm Kyle Yurkovich. I am the fire prevention officer for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest here in northern Utah. I think the equipment that we have available now versus what was available 50 years ago, you know, with a few different types of mastication heads, with some of the equipment that we now have available to us to implement prescribed fires.
00:00:33:27 - 00:01:05:14
I think that having those tools in our toolbox, that's opened up some additional options. I'll say that a lot of fire management does look the way that it did 50, 60 years ago, that there was not always a whole lot that's changed. There's still, you know, a 25-year-old swinging a tool on the hillside to put that chunk of fire line in, whether that's prepping for a prescribed fire or fighting fire, you know, we're still using a lot of aviation assets.
00:01:05:16 - 00:01:41:07
But I know there's some really interesting equipment out there, especially for working in rugged terrain or around homes and around infrastructure. And some of those things are very expensive and not necessarily available for the kind of work that we're doing. But I think like a lot of challenges we're faced with; I think technology and some interesting innovation around bringing other tools to bear that I think there's plenty of room to try some different things out.
00:01:41:07 - 00:02:06:22
And I think it could be interesting to see what folks could come up with some different tools for trying to manipulate or reduce that vegetation stand restoration. So, when we talked about Juniper moving from mountain slopes down into the sage and how fire used to play a natural role, to be able to kind of keep the juniper at bay.
00:02:06:25 - 00:02:47:09
Similarly, we've seen in part to due to fire suppression and not having fire being able to play its natural role in the ecosystem, a reduction of really large, healthy Aspen stands. And so Aspen restoration is a really big component and objective that we have when it comes to landscape stewardship and when we're talking about risk reduction, water quality and water quantity, that if we've got an Aspen stand that used to see fire on a regular interval and now, we've got conifer that have what we call encroached, so conifer get into that Aspen stand there, then mature, they shade out the forest floor.
00:02:47:09 - 00:03:17:19
You don't get really that that reproduction of Aspen And then also, Aspen can reproduce in a few different ways, but they respond very well to fire. There's a lot of research going on right now. But really what we're seeing is if you can burn it really hot, the Aspen love it, and they send up a lot of shoots and you'll get an entire new cohort of Aspen coming up in that stand.
00:03:17:26 - 00:03:48:15
So, when we're talking about reducing that conifer encroachment in the Aspen stand and whether that's through mechanical means and or with using prescribed fire, that disturbance in the Aspen stand and then especially with fire, we'll get that Aspen to respond. The thing with Aspen is they don't capture as much snow. So, when you think about a conifer, a pine tree out in the forest when it's snowing, that those boughs get kind of loaded up with snow.
00:03:48:18 - 00:04:09:23
Again, we're here in the high desert. So, then we're looking at, you know, evaporation sublimation of that snow off the tree. And that snow didn't make it onto the forest floor. When you're looking at an Aspen stand, there's a kind of less snow intercept from the tree itself. More of that snow is hitting the forest floor. You've then got more thermal mass.
00:04:09:23 - 00:04:34:24
And so, you get as that snowpack melts down through the year, more of that water is either going into the ground or as runoff back into the watershed itself. And then also, Aspen don't burn as hot, and you don't get as much kind of fire behavior and movement of the fire through an Aspen stand like you would through conifer.
00:04:34:24 - 00:04:58:20
So, the way a fire burns through Subalpine fir or through lodgepole pine can be, you know, pretty dramatic and severe and intense. And generally, we don't see that kind of fire behavior through an Aspen stand. So, you know, when it's possible, if you can take advantage of Aspen to help mitigate some of those fire effects, it's kind of a win-win.
00:04:58:23 - 00:05:25:10
The other thing is Aspen provide a lot of high-quality habitat and forage to a lot of different animals, large ungulates in particular. So, by restoring those Aspen stands, we're able to put more water back into the system, reduce the likelihood of high intensity, high severity, fire effects, and then really be able to provide high quality habitat for animals out in the landscape.
00:05:25:10 - 00:05:46:27
So, it's kind of a win-win-win-win when we're looking at that, when we have the ability to emphasize that as an objective. From what I have seen, capacity is really the ongoing issue. So, this year, particularly in northern Utah, was a good example. Not a particularly busy fire season here in northern Utah.
00:05:47:00 - 00:06:15:26
So, we were able to take advantage of, you know, some more folks being home. The forest Service is currently implementing a program called the Wildfire Crisis Strategy, which really, they looked across the west and use some different vetting criteria. A lot of that was around wildland-urban interface and then high quality and at-risk watersheds. So, with those, as you can imagine, northern Utah ranked up pretty high.
00:06:15:28 - 00:06:40:17
So, we were the recipient of a fair amount of funding coming down from Washington to implement a lot of risk mitigation and kind of watershed restoration treatment. So, we pulled off a lot of fuel reduction projects. We were able to implement a lot of pile burning and then quite a bit of large scale prescribed burning as well.
00:06:40:19 - 00:07:01:24
This was an odd year, and we had a fair amount of folks around to be able to do the implementation. And I'd really like to highlight too the fact that you might have a project taking place on Forest Service ground, but the implementation of that is often done by a whole coalition of folks. So that can be, you know, several federal agencies.
00:07:01:24 - 00:07:25:02
So, we've got, you know, especially right here, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife. And then we do a lot with our state partners. So cross boundary treatment is something we talk about a lot. Fire doesn't generally recognize a geopolitical boundary. It's not just going to stop at a fence because the color on the map changed.
00:07:25:05 - 00:07:49:07
And so, our ability to work with our other federal and state partners and local communities to really treat landscapes and not just stop a treatment at a fence line. And all that being said, we work a lot with the Utah Department of Natural Resources and a lot of their wildland fire management programs and crews to implement a lot of the work that we're doing.
00:07:49:09 - 00:08:20:07
And then private industry. So, we take advantage of a lot of heavy equipment operators and in contract crews, as what we call them, that are they look a lot like our fire crews. But instead of always being out fighting fire or having a responsibility to a particular chunk of ground, they are able to move all around the country and implement a lot of the projects that we're trying to get done and where our firefighting resources might need to respond to a brand-new start.
00:08:20:08 - 00:08:48:23
You know, fire down here in the valley or they're going to Oregon or they're going to California to help with that firefighting effort. Once we're able to get those contract crews involved and under contract, then they're there to help us implement those projects. And so, you know, some of those folks can also be involved in fire management. But again, with the season being a little bit slower than a regular year, we had a lot of tools in the toolbox and just a lot of a lot of things to bring to bear.
00:08:48:26 - 00:09:12:27
So capacity is always a big issue. You know, this coming season, if it's really busy, are all those hands going to be on deck? Most likely not. And I think if we're talking about innovation and maybe where things fall short is just having more folks involved because it's a big problem. It's a problem all across Utah. It's a problem all across the intermountain West.
00:09:12:29 - 00:09:38:08
And, you know, having additional folks and equipment to really do the implementation, I think that's having more of that would be a good thing. So, if you're interested in how to get some more information around fire ecology, what the problems are that we're facing and some of the work that's being done and some other projects that are being proposed.
00:09:38:11 - 00:10:01:06
There's a great tool that the Forest Service put together, along with some of our other agency partners around the wildfire crisis strategy. And that kind of walks through all of those topics of why are we needed to do this work in the first place? What is the risk and what's the value, What's the hazards if we do nothing?
00:10:01:08 - 00:10:26:23
And then really, what are the goals and the objectives of that investment in that project and that program? And there's a lot of that work that's going on outside of WCS - Wildfire Crisis Strategy that we talk about for hazardous fuels reduction and prescribed fire management. But that's a very specific program. And there's been a lot of investment just recently, and I think that'll be an easy thing for the students.
00:10:26:23 - 00:10:57:18
We will take a look at and give you a little bit better understanding of exactly what are the issues that we're facing on the ground and how are some of those things being tackled. And if you're reading through that and seeing some of the secondary objectives that we've got in that program with trying to involve different agencies or entities and really outreach to different parts of the public and making sure that we've got kind of everybody at the table, all the stakeholders that may be impacted or are interested or involved.
00:10:57:20 - 00:11:30:19
That's going to give you a good idea of really what the agency is trying to do with this, this big investment. And again, a lot of that is around trying to protect communities and infrastructure from the impacts from wildland fire and then really make sure that we're helping to treat some of the watersheds that are high quality and high quantity out there on the landscape that again, communities, agriculture and industry may be taking advantage of or really need to operate.
00:11:30:21 - 00:12:02:15
And the things that we're doing to try to help limit the impacts of fire to those watersheds. So yeah, we'll provide a link to to that document and there's some additional information from the agency that I think would be helpful. And then yeah, folks have other questions or interest or ideas. We'll see you at the Hackathon! Yeah, it's a funny I guess it's a funny thing, especially having had students where it's difficult to make to teach somebody to care.
00:12:02:17 - 00:12:34:18
And I think if the students, they care enough to be involved with this, that's a great first step that on the on the firefighter side, I can make him do more push-ups. I can make you hike up a bunch of hills to get stronger. I can teach you a bunch of things, but whether it's around wanting to support the program, to run fire crew better and be a strong link in that chain or be really interested in proactive land stewardship and really get involved in trying to help make this help tackle this problem.
00:12:34:21 - 00:12:56:28
If you care enough to be involved right now, that's a huge first step because that's a really difficult thing is to really get somebody to care. And that “why”, right? You've all of you students, you have your own “why,” and that might be different than the person sitting next to you. But if you're all working towards that same goal, roughly, that's a really important piece.
00:12:57:00 - 00:13:26:18
And I'll say on that note that land stewardship gets taken care of by a lot of different folks and not everyone has the same motivation, but oftentimes the end result, you're all looking for the same end result. You know, better resiliency in the landscape, high quality wildlife habitat. And it's important to hear out the other folks’ objectives and understand what their motivations are.
00:13:26:21 - 00:13:51:18
And even though they might not be the same as yours, if you're all going in the same direction, recognize that those are partners that you have. And it's important to gather information and work together towards that same goal. It can be easy to feel like if someone's not under the same motivation that you are, that all of a sudden there's some static there and that's not going to help improve things.
00:13:51:20 - 00:14:19:28
And I think staying open minded, being pragmatic, being practical, that goes a long way. And also, things do get better. I'll say also, I've been in fire management for a long time, and I've been around some different interesting conservation work for a while now. And it's not all bad news that things are getting better.
00:14:20:01 - 00:14:47:09
Right now, there's a huge investment in time and equipment in money from a lot of different organizations, from federal right down to non-governmental organizations. And it's inspiring. And this is a really great time to be involved in in conservation and in land stewardship. And I wish you all the best.
Forecasting and Communicating Smoke Warnings - Paul Corrigan, US Forest Service
US Forest Service Wildfire Crisis Strategy
Blue Sky Framework
EPA - Smoke Ready
AirNow – Fire and Smoke Map
00:00:00:00 - 00:00:43:10
Hi, my name is Paul Corrigan. I work for the US Forest Service Intermountain Region. I am a smoke coordinator. This region covers Utah, Nevada, southern Idaho, and parts of California and Wyoming. My duties include acting as a liaison between the wildland fire management community and the air quality community. So, this especially includes working with partners such as regulators at the state, local and county levels and tribal level.
00:00:43:13 - 00:01:21:11
My background is that I have a degree in forestry, and I've worked for land management agencies in Utah since 2002. A couple of the other really key parts of my job are leveraging new technology to predict, observe and forecast smoke impacts and also supporting our national forests, including implementing the US Forest Service's Wildfire Crisis Strategy, a big component of which is increased investment in hazardous fuels reduction, especially prescribed fire.
00:01:21:13 - 00:01:58:12
So, 2023 was a relatively quiet year for wildfires in the western U.S., but Canada's massive wildfire season had enormous impacts on air quality, not just in the West here, but in the Midwest and up and down the East Coast. So, this brought a lot of attention to the challenge of forecasting smoke from wildfires. I do a certain amount of this in the summertime, and we have a number of computer models that can help guide your intuition, but it is still very much an art as much as a science, relying on your experience.
00:01:58:12 - 00:02:24:25
Because you're trying to make predictions about something that's incredibly dynamic, not just the atmosphere, but also what will happen in the fire environment. Will the fire grow? Will firefighters be successful at putting it out? All of the above. So can influence the way you would predict the quantity of smoke and where it's going to go and how thick it will be.
00:02:24:27 - 00:02:52:16
Two of the smoke models that you might be able to find out there are called HRRR Smoke. H-R-R-R that's high-resolution rapid refresh and the Blue Sky Framework. They both use essentially a persistence approach to seed tomorrow's atmosphere with a certain amount of smoke based on what happened with wildfires today. So, there could be better approaches to that.
00:02:52:21 - 00:03:25:02
So, the challenge that our current suite of tools face is that they need not just the best possible weather forecast, but they're also trying to simulate a dynamic interaction between the fire and the environment. So, the way they approach this challenge now is to use a persistence approach, essentially seeding tomorrow's weather with today's fire activity. But there could be better approaches to doing this.
00:03:25:05 - 00:03:53:24
So next, I'm going to talk about community resilience and health impacts. If you're aware of how air quality is going to be changing in your community, you can take actions to protect yourself. But we don't always know how effective messaging is from the government or through other channels within the community, getting people to change their behavior and do those protective measures.
00:03:53:24 - 00:04:19:25
So, you know, for example, with wildfire smoke, recommended mitigations include staying indoors, ensuring your indoor air is as clean as possible if you have to go outside, potentially using a 95 mask when smoke concentrations reach a certain level. And so there's a number of social and technical things that that have to line up to get this to actually work for people.
00:04:19:25 - 00:04:42:03
Right. They need to have a high-quality HVAC system if your indoor air is indeed going to be cleaner than the outdoor air. People need to be checking because air quality can change rapidly throughout the day. So there needs to be a communication system in place for people to understand what the air quality is in their local community.
00:04:42:05 - 00:05:16:14
And if there's, you know, economic barriers and accessibility challenges for a lot of these tools and mitigations as well. So, we've seen a trend in the Mountain west where wintertime air pollution episodes are becoming shorter and less severe, while summertime air pollution episodes are becoming longer and more severe. It's important that communities are aware of this trend. And we need to improve the support available for those who are most vulnerable.
00:05:16:20 - 00:05:44:01
And this is really getting at a concept called Smoke Ready. So, I'll share some resources that flesh that out a little bit better. Well, we have a tool called the Fire and Smoke Map, and this leverages citizen-owned sensors to complement the existing air quality monitoring network. So, it gives people much greater spatial resolution and more localized information that they can use to make health decisions for themselves.
00:05:44:03 - 00:06:10:05
But we're not always confident that people are referring to this or interpreting it in the right way. So, some social science would be awesome to try and dig in and make sure that it is being used. And, you know, we're always trying to figure out how that tool might be involved to be more effective, or to reach a wider audience.
00:06:10:07 - 00:06:48:19
Air quality alerts are issued usually at the request of regulators and the language in terms with which we communicate air quality impacts are really not as well developed or as well understood as standard weather forecasts. So, for example, to say tomorrow afternoon there will be a 30% chance of showers. That carries a lot of information. And it's generally broadly understood by most of the public. Whereas, if we simply say AQI is forecast to be orange tomorrow or unhealthy for sensitive groups, that's harder for a lot of people to digest.
00:06:48:19 - 00:07:14:06
What do I do? Do I bring my umbrella? That doesn't answer that type of question. So, I think we could really benefit from a little more rigorous understanding of what are the best terms to use and how they can convey more information and be more succinct. So, as a society, we have recognized and tackled air quality problems in the past.
00:07:14:08 - 00:07:41:15
The Clean Air Act came out in the 1970s. It's been a rousing success. In the 21st century, though, we've seen wildfires on an upward trend. The challenges associated with that in terms of air quality are enormous. And so, we're developing solutions as we go trying out different things. And I know that many of them are out there that haven't been thought of yet.
00:07:41:17 - 00:08:16:11
So, I'm super excited to see what will be coming down the pipe in terms of helping our society deal with smoke impacts. And some of it is going to be protective rather than, you know, thinking that these impacts will be there. It's more how can we build communities that are resilient to them, ready to experience smoke and not experience negative health effects because of it?
Mitigating Health Impacts - Alexis Lee
Fifth National Climate Assessment – Human Health
EPA - Research on DIY Air Cleaners to Reduce Wildfire Smoke Indoors
Corsi- Rosenthal Box
00:00:00:00 - 00:00:38:02
I'm Alexis Lee. I'm the director of Environmental and Social Sustainability for University of Utah Health. So, the healthcare arm of the University of Utah side. If you've ever been to one of our hospitals and clinics, I work on improving sustainability and climate resilience for those entities. Today, I'm going to talk about the health hazards that we see as a result of wildfires and then also ways that we can enhance and improve community resilience when it comes to wildfires, which is important to us, and University of Utah Health, because a health care institution is a major part of community resilience.
00:00:38:04 - 00:01:03:00
And we know that we're only as resilient as the communities that we're a part of. So, when we look at wildfires, they have massive impacts on health and there are some that could be really direct, right? So, if somebody is exposed directly to a wildfire, they may be burned, that kind of thing. But really, wildfires have health hazards that expand far beyond that, in part because wildfire smoke can travel over really large distances, which we've already seen here in Utah.
00:01:03:02 - 00:01:20:04
For any of you hackers who might have lived here in the summer of 2021, you might remember that we saw a lot of wildfire smoke actually coming from California or even just this most recent summer. We saw a lot of wildfire smoke that was traveling from the Canadian wildfires down through the eastern U.S. So, when we see wildfires, there's those direct impacts.
00:01:20:04 - 00:01:43:01
But then there's the indirect impacts of smoke later and some of the health hazards that people experience are, of course, exacerbations of underlying conditions. So, for people who have things like asthma or cystic fibrosis or COPD, those chronic pulmonary and cardiovascular conditions can be exacerbated during a wildfire smoke event. But then we also see things that you may not necessarily think of.
00:01:43:01 - 00:02:10:12
So, for example, there's a higher risk to women who are pregnant and there is a greater risk for pre-term labor or complications as a result of that poor air quality. We also see that young children and babies, especially because their lung volume and surface volume is so much larger comparatively, and because their lungs are growing so fast, we see that those groups are particularly vulnerable to pulmonary disruption during wildfire smoke then.
00:02:10:13 - 00:02:31:21
So, as a result, during wildfires, we see more likely admittance from the emergency department hospitalizations. And in some cases, we also see greater amounts of death. And those are a few of the health hazards that we might see immediately during a wildfire smoke event. The other thing that I really want to highlight is mental health concerns that are related to wildfire.
00:02:31:21 - 00:02:55:17
So, for those who are forced to evacuate during a wildfire, that's a huge traumatic event. So, we might see PTSD in those communities following a wildfire. But then there's also people who, you know, they get their exercise and that's one of the ways that they manage their mental health. And there may be not able to go out and be in nature or get their exercise during a wildfire smoke event.
00:02:55:18 - 00:03:17:02
And then there's also this.: It's called solastalgia. It's a sense of loss and grief that a lot of people feel and see when landscapes are altered as a result of wildfire. So, for example, if any of you live here locally, you may, you know, drive part of these canyon and on the kind of the right side as you're going up the canyon, there's that whole area, that big burn scar.
00:03:17:02 - 00:03:37:20
And so, for people who are used to seeing that landscape in a different way, it can really bring up senses of loss and grief when we see landscapes that are altered by wildfire. So, there's a lot there's a lot of places that wildfire impacts our health and there are some groups who most keenly feel those impacts as well.
00:03:37:23 - 00:03:54:29
So, I think there are a lot... I mean, the great thing about complicated problems is there are a lot of solutions. So, when we look at both the health hazards or how we can make our communities more resilient, there are a few things that we could consider. The health hazards that wildfires pose primarily come from smoke, as I mentioned.
00:03:54:29 - 00:04:13:14
And so, there are some things that people can do as individuals to keep themselves safe. So, for example, you could create a clean room in your home, and a clean room looks like a space that you can keep the doors and windows shut. So, you're not bringing in more of that wildfire smoke. But then you can also do things like improve the ventilation of how things are coming into your house.
00:04:13:14 - 00:04:38:01
So, if, for example, you have you have access to the HVAC, so the heating ventilation, air conditioning system in your home, you can add additional filtration to that or you can also buy or make an extra air filter that will help you keep that room clean. Now, one of the challenges that we have is, of course, not everybody owns their own home, so they may not have the ability to add a filter to their HVAC system.
00:04:38:01 - 00:05:00:05
They may be renting or in multifamily housing. And right now, none of the codes, at least that I'm aware of in our state of Utah and perhaps in other states too, those codes don't mandate our particular level of filtration. So that might be a place where we could see some improvements as we start to mandate or kind of put into the code that we need to have a certain level of filtration.
00:05:00:08 - 00:05:27:11
Or it might be that we need to incentivize those multifamily owners or even businesses or community-based organizations. We need to provide them with the incentives or the resources and funding that they need to add that extra level of filtration during wildfire smoke events so that they can keep their tenants or their employees or the community members that they're serving safe and providing a clean air space for those folks.
00:05:27:13 - 00:05:45:08
So, a few resources that you might consider checking out, for example, Health and Human Services actually has a climate monthly health outlook. So, every summer they actually talk about some of the risks to wildfires and they talk about the health impacts. You can also check out the most recent fifth, the fifth climate assessment. And there's a whole chapter on health.
00:05:45:08 - 00:06:03:29
So, if you want to better understand some of the health impacts of wildfires, there's a section in there that you can go and read through. And there are also some tools that we could look at. So, for example, folks can build their own air filter, and the most effective version is called the Corsi–Rosenthal Box. And that is basically like a box fan with Merv Filters.
00:06:04:04 - 00:06:19:22
You can check that out. And some of the research that's been done on how effective those are on the EPA's website, that's another thing that we could look at, you know, distributing or finding ways for folks to learn about that. Those are a few resources I hope will help you. We'll hackers, I wish you the best of luck.
00:06:19:22 - 00:06:37:23
And I think when it comes to wildfires and health and climate resilience, what I would really say is, you know, there's a lot of research that we already have about the health impacts of wildfire. And so, you know, if there's a project that you can think of that really helps us to mitigate those health impacts, that will be really helpful.
00:06:37:23 - 00:06:44:10
So good luck.
Community Resilience - Divya Chandrasekhar
00:00:00:00 - 00:00:37:18
Hi, my name is Divya Chandrasekhar. I am an associate professor in City and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah. My research looks at community recovery after disasters. I'm particularly interested in the ways communities make decisions to recover how those recovery decisions span out over the long term. Today, I'm going to talk about two of your themes, which include risk mitigation and how to build community resilience after wildfires.
00:00:37:21 - 00:01:04:21
It's really important to understand the relationship that resilience has with healthy communities. And this is also where both challenges and opportunities lie. If you want to think of it this way, a healthy community which is say “healthy”, socially, economically, ecologically, but also politically, is also likely to be more resilient. In the same vein, things that you do for resilience can contribute to the health of a community.
00:01:04:24 - 00:01:25:14
This is not to say that every resilience action contributes to health. It depends on the details of what you propose. And this is where both the challenges and the opportunities lie. The kinds of things that we want to think about are what are some everyday opportunities for us to make a difference to resilience. So, when you are thinking about wildfire resilience.
00:01:25:16 - 00:02:01:18
The solution might actually lie in the clean energy space or addressing a housing crisis which also contributes to wildfire resilience. So, you might want to think of areas which intersect or are twofers. They both build resilience, but also build the wealth and the health of the community. So, projects that think about social vulnerability of populations and how they might be affected not only by the wildfire, but actually by the resilience solution that you are proposing is also important.
00:02:01:21 - 00:02:29:17
So, thinking across or out of the box, when you think about resilience, to not just think about resilience, but also think about long term sustainability, long term health of the community. This is a really important thing. This also raises questions about who should be involved in the process or the solution, both in the making of the solution, but also in the actual experience and working and everyday interaction with the solution.
00:02:29:19 - 00:03:01:15
So, make sure that you are thinking not just about wildfire resilience, but about the long game that you want to play, which is really healthy, vibrant communities. Yeah, there are some easy ways to do this. The very first thing you can do is if it's a real community that we're working with to understand the community. So, you can look at census data, you can look at community documents that actually talk about the history of the community, the place, how it has come to be, where it wants to go.
00:03:01:17 - 00:03:27:11
And I say by it I mean the people in the community where they aspire to go with their community and to make sure that those are being addressed in the solutions that you are proposing, a solution that does not take the people along, you know, on the journey is likely to fail because ten, 15 years later, that solution that you're proposing is going to be implemented, maintained, managed, even built upon by the community.
00:03:27:13 - 00:04:05:06
So, it's really important to understand the state of the community before you start to do work. And that could mean a simple thing as going us going on the census and getting information about who lives there, how long they live there, what the economic characteristics, what are the demographic characteristics of this place to understand social vulnerability. For example, which is a really important thing that we should be thinking about when we propose solutions, not only because the impact is felt disproportionately by socially vulnerable populations, but also because sometimes resilience solutions don't adequately address those vulnerabilities.
00:04:05:09 - 00:04:27:24
So, you want to be understanding what those social vulnerabilities are. There are indicators out there that you can use. The CDC has an indicator of social vulnerability that, you know, it's easy to look up. It's a map. You can see where your community is and what the social liberty index is for that. I believe at the county level, there's also SoVI.
00:04:27:29 - 00:04:47:29
It's another social vulnerability index out of the University of South Carolina. So there are resources out there that can help you understand your community before you start doing your work. There are some things that you really want to keep in mind. The first is to make sure that you are playing that long game, that you are not thinking of the short term, but you are thinking of the long term.
00:04:48:01 - 00:05:19:17
That anything that you suggest as a solution has to contribute to the well-being and quality of life of that community. And for that, knowing what the community wants is really, really important. So, looking at those documents, understanding the aspirations of the community, then working those aspirations into your solution is the way to success. The other thing that people always sort of underestimate is how important the process is. Coming up with a technological solution to any problem is not the way to make it successful.
00:05:19:19 - 00:05:43:27
The way to make it successful is to involve and engage the people who will be affected by or who will make that technological solution possible. So always think about the process. How do I involve the community which we know which stakeholders in the community should be involved in this process? And how should this process actually be conducted? The quality of the process is directly correlated to the success of the project that you propose.
00:05:43:29 - 00:06:11:22
So always make sure processes important. Solutions are good, process makes perfect. So you really want to make sure that you have that community engagement aspect in there. Well thought out, well outlined. The second thing that you want to avoid is thinking in siloed fashion. Too often, especially when we think about in the emergency management disasters space, we tend to think of disasters as something unique and separate.
00:06:11:24 - 00:06:43:16
And then a regular development, regular community building is something separate and you don't want to do that. You want to think about how that might intersect. So how would your resilient solution, for instance, contribute to worsening of community conditions, not just improving them? That's not... that's a myth, not a very solution does that. So, you really want to think across what is happening in the disaster space and what will actually happen in the regular everyday life space of these communities.
00:06:43:18 - 00:07:11:09
This is such a timely and important topic, not just to Utah communities, but to all the communities in the Western United States, in fact, even in the eastern United States. And so I really wish that you come up with something that is useful, that shows off your skills and your enthusiasm for addressing this population. Good luck.
Better Smoke Forecasting - Derek Mallia
00:00:00:00 - 00:00:32:26
I'm Derek Mallia. I'm a research assistant professor here at the University of Utah Department of Atmospheric Sciences. And so, I study wildfires and how wildfires will impact air quality. And in addition to that, I also focus on forecasting the impacts of wildfires so that can involve the spread of the wildfire. But it could also include the forecasting of wildfire smoke, which is also of significant concern.
00:00:32:29 - 00:00:55:00
And then when I talk about forecasting wildfire smoke, this could be forecasting the short-term exposure of wildfire smoke. So, a few days out or working on the kind of climate-level kind of length scales. So, working with wildfires and projecting the kind of longer-term impacts of how climate change might impact wildfires and then smoke and smoke dispersion.
00:00:55:02 - 00:01:18:27
So, a big issue with wildfires is wildfires are relatively smaller scale relative to other phenomena in the atmosphere. And so, because of that, it's relatively difficult to kind of simulate and forecast. And so, a lot of forecasting frameworks out there assume that the fire activity day to day is unchanged, even though we know that that's a great assumption.
00:01:18:27 - 00:01:44:12
But to kind of do things better requires a lot better technology and computational resources, which we're getting to that point. And so, I think a big area where we can kind of improve smoke forecasting, for example, is forecasting how the fire emissions of what's being injected off of the fire, how that changes day to day and incorporating how changes in meteorology will relate to those changes in fire activity.
00:01:44:12 - 00:02:13:16
So, for example, if tomorrow is supposed to be hotter and drier, your forecast model will then inject more smoke into the atmosphere or produce more smoke because you know the fires are probably going to be growing a lot more. So those are some of the ways that we could probably improve smoke forecasting. Also, satellites are really offering a really nice opportunity to better detect fires and get a better sense of where the fires are located, what they're burning through.
00:02:13:18 - 00:02:47:14
And so that kind of information can also help us improve our fire forecast. So remote sensing techniques such as satellites, I think will also play a significant role in the future in terms of helping to improve forecasts of fire, wildfires in wildfire smoke. Yeah, So, you know, our models simply just tell you what is the concentration of smoke, but an everyday person won’t actually know what that concentration, how dangerous that concentration of smoke could potentially be or how unhealthy that concentration of smoke could be.
00:02:47:16 - 00:03:18:02
And so, what we could do is we could relate this to health information or, you know, work with air quality managers and provide guidance of, okay, well, if the concentration of smoke is this value, you know, you should take these precautions. So, this is not just a weather forecasting issue, but this will also involve folks that are more involved in the realm of the health sciences and so on.
00:03:18:04 - 00:03:37:24
I think a really fantastic model. Granted, it does kind of do the persistence assumption with smoke emissions, but I think it's still a very valuable tool. And it's really the state of the art kind of smoke forecasting model. But the high-resolution rapid refresh model HRRR is the state of the art kind of smoke forecasting system right now.
00:03:37:26 - 00:04:01:15
And it really does a good job with simulating smoke across the CONUS, US and even North America to some degree. And so, I think that's a really valuable tool for forecasting smoke. Granted, maybe the user interface that it is on isn't the most user friendly for non-meteorologists, but nonetheless it is a really good website and so on.
00:04:01:17 - 00:04:28:22
I guess I would say is wildfires is very interdisciplinary. There is a lot of different aspects of wildfires that a fire researcher needs to consider. But what I would actually recommend is as a student, just focus on one very small aspect of fires. Fires are very broad. There's a lot of things to consider. And so, I think you could very easily get lost in the weeds by trying to ask too big of a question.
00:04:28:22 - 00:04:59:29
So, I would actually encourage students to really focus on the very specific question related to maybe wildfire forecasting and smoke forecasting. Yeah. So, you know, I think wildfires has some of the strongest linkages to climate change. And it's one of those severe weather events that really shows very clear linkages to climate change. And so, I look at wildfires and better understanding wildfires and how climate by impact wildfires, that's the kind of forefront of climate science.
00:04:59:29 - 00:05:26:24
And along those lines, it's a really important issue that really, relative to other severe weather phenomena, probably impacts actually the most people. Wildfires in themselves are relatively small and they impact the fires themselves, maybe impact a much smaller population. Granted, wildfire smoke that has the ability to impact millions of people. And so along those lines, kind of encourage students to.
00:05:26:25 - 00:05:49:19
Yeah, this is a really important issue and there's a lot of really awesome work that can be done in this space in regard to fires. And I think the research surrounding wildfires is really starting to take off. But in many ways, it's really much in its infancy. And in terms of other weather, severe weather phenomena, I would say there is still quite a bit of our lacking research in that area.
00:05:49:19 - 00:06:00:21
And there's a lot of really interesting and cool work that could be done for the next generation of scientists.
Forecasting Smoke and Mitigating Health Impacts - Gannet Hallar
NASA Health and Air Quality Applied Science
00:00:00:00 - 00:00:38:22
Good morning. My name is Gannet Hallar and I am a professor in the Atmospheric Science department. I also direct Storm Peak Laboratory and I focus on atmospheric aerosols, including smoke. Today I'm going to talk a little bit about risk mitigation and health hazard for the wildfire hackathon. So here we have a lab at the University of Utah, and we title that lab HART, which is the aerosol research team.
00:00:38:24 - 00:01:06:00
And here we measure aerosol particles. We measure their size, their number, their color. We make very similar but more measurements at Storm Peak Laboratory, which is located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and also owned and operated by the University of Utah. And through these two increasingly long-term records, we are able to observe the changes in smoke in the intermountain west.
00:01:06:02 - 00:01:40:08
And what we've found is that smoke is increasing as we're getting larger fires. That smoke or organic carbon aerosols is directly correlated with the amount in acreage of fire acreage burned. And it is also very specific to the wind direction that the fire areas burning from. And so, using these remote sites, we can start to understand the implications of wildfire smoke in comparison to urban pollution.
00:01:40:14 - 00:02:21:10
And that helps us get a feel for what is the impact as we're seeing increasing size and number of fires in the future. Our measurements have been very consistent with predicted models, in that we will see a significant increase up to 2.2 times in the wildfire area burned by 2050. So, with respect to wildfire, the areas that I see opportunities and future innovations will have a great impact is specific to the forecasting of air quality impacts from wildfires.
00:02:21:12 - 00:02:52:13
So, by providing people a greater warning of their exposure to these particles, which we now know have very significant health impacts, we can help them mitigate those impacts, doing things like running an air filter in their home potentially, or cutting down on pollution sources that would also contribute to poor air quality, making choices to improve the air quality, knowing that the smoke will be encroaching soon.
00:02:52:15 - 00:03:25:15
I think some real innovation is happening with regards to using satellite data, specifically NASA's satellite or NOAA's satellite data for the monitoring of smoke. And that data is becoming increasingly available in real time. With that information, we can provide better forecast. But also with that information, we can provide a deeper understanding of the regional impacts of smoke even on a sub-city scale.
00:03:25:17 - 00:03:57:28
And where innovation is happening is that people are realizing the importance of communicating the information clearly and concisely to the public. On that note, NASA has built teams that are specifically tasked to take NASA's satellite data and communicate that to the public, and they have created teams that focus on wildfire smoke, for example, and the air quality impacts of wildfire smoke.
00:03:58:00 - 00:04:40:13
So, I would probably direct the hackathon towards the NASA Health and Air Quality Applied Science Team website. And just to be clear, that's H-A-Q-H-S-T. And there you'll find a great number of resources that are available through NASA to help communicate, understand, and improve air quality forecasting for the public as specific to wildfire smoke. What gives me hope in this increasingly alarming climate crisis is the students that I teach every day and their innovation.
00:04:40:15 - 00:05:18:19
In addition to their innovation. This generation has the ability to process data like never before. The computational power and the coding skills along with machine learning techniques. Furthermore, they have the ability to communicate that to the public like never before with social media and many, many aspects of engagement. And so, I am encouraged by this generation, and I think you will come up with brilliant ideas via this hackathon.