Professor given million dollar grant to help study wildfires

Professor given million dollar grant to help study wildfires

29 September 2009

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The National Science Foundation has awarded a one million dollar grant to Georgia State assistant professor of computer science Xiaolin Hu to improve a computer simulation model. This model will more efficiently help firefighters combat wildfires.

According to a Georgia State press release, the grant is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and is part of the recent federal economic stimulus package. The act will start in January 2010 and is a four-year award, which is part of the Cyber-enabled Discovery ad Innovation program.

Hu, along with colleagues at the University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M University, will be combining several simulation models. These will be put into a larger model for the sake of helping firefighters decide what to do to help keep wildfires more contained.

“We can take what we call firefighting resource characteristics as an input, as well as fire spreading data to perform a calculation to compute optimal resource deployment,” Hu said. From there, the model will be able to simulate how the deployment of resources will work to suppress the fire.

The simulation will show the spreading of a wildfire in realistic terms. Many factors will be taken into effect including wind speed, humidity, type of vegetation, and personal machinery resources. Analyzing the three aspects of the simulation, weather operational models and the wildfire into the larger, more complex model is a complex job.

“Even with an update from a weather station each minute, the conditions are not going to be the same all of the time and across the whole area, and this is especially true in a wildfire situation,” he said. “The weather is going to influence the wildfire, and the wildfire is going to influence the weather conditions. So, with this grant, we’re trying to couple wildfire model with the weather model.”

According to the same press release, Hu is also the recent recipient of the NSF’s CAREER award in the amount of $425,000, an award aimed at young faculty to support their research.

The research being done on simulation and computer modeling is becoming an increasingly important technology in today’s world. Many behaviors can be understood, analyzed, and predicted thanks to studies in these fields.

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