As the Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science and Director of the Fire Weather Research Lab at San Jose State University, Craig Clements believes the college has now assembled a dream team of wildfire scientists.
The timing could not have been better, as massive blazes have ravaged California and made clear that there’s an urgent need for advanced wildfire research.
SJSU this past week announced that it has established the largest academic Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC) in the nation.
The program is buoyed by new tenure-track faculty members and with millions of dollars in new technology. Future research and data coming out of WIRC are expected to uncover new information that may help prevent the next big wildfire.
The WIRC team specializes in several different disciplines of wildfire science and management, including biology, meteorology, environmental studies and mechanical engineering, ensuring that no sticks or un-sparked kindling will be left unturned in the advancement of this particular field of study.
“The research group that was established here 10 years ago has been international leaders in their fields for quite some time,” Clements told San Jose Inside in a recent phone call. “We were lucky to recruit these [new] faculty members because they vary in experience and all of them bring a unique perspective.”
Clements will staff the program along with fellow faculty members Patrick Brow, Mike Voss, Adam Kochanski, Amanda Stasiewicz, Ali Tohidi, Kate Wilkin and another yet-to-be-named instructor expected to join the team in January.
Each professor boasts a different skill set and specialization that school officials say will go a long way in meeting the enormous challenge of dealing with future wildfires.
“In just the past few years, wildfires have scorched California’s landscape, burning millions of acres, injuring and killing hundreds of people and causing billions of dollars in damages,” SJSU College of Science Dean Michael Kaufman said. “Dealing with this challenge requires interdisciplinary solutions. The advanced wildfire research enabled by this new center is needed now more than ever before.”
Clements and his staff will have the latest technology at their disposal, including an advanced, next-generation wild-atmosphere forecasting system and a host of mobile assets to conduct research in the field.
An advanced fire protection system takes into account how wildfires create their own weather, which most fire protection systems ignore, Clements said.
The mobile assets include two customized trucks equipped with Doppler radar and one truck having LiDar, an active remote sensing instrument that measures the speed of aerosols-dust, water or pollution-found traveling in the wind.
“One of our goals is to provide state-of-the-art science research in the academic discipline of wildifre science,” Clements exlained. “If we combine all the physical tools and social science fire ecology aspects, we can realize our goal to be able to push better policies at the state and national level.”