Supercomputer could help in firefighting strategy

Supercomputer could help in firefighting strategy

18 April 2010

published by

USA —    Most experts would agree wildfires are unpredictable.

However, the Supercomputer in Butte may hold the key to giving emergency officials a better take on what these volatile blazes may do.

Earl Dodd, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Center, located in the Thornton Building at 65 E. Broadway St., says he has the hardware to do just that.

In a program called Project LandView, Dodd said the supercomputer was able to produce a wildfire simulator that predicts the spread of a wildfire.

Dodd notes that the program is merely a model that was designed in October for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., to use at his town hall meetings on land management. With more money, Dodd would like to turn this program into a user-friendly tool that could give authorities a proactive way for fighting wildfires. Dodd notes that he needs people who are M.A.D. — that is, they have money, authority and desire.

Presently, Forest Service relies on historical data when preparing for wildfires. Dodd thinks this is fine, but this program would give much more.

“Instead of just historical data, you can predict the future,” he said.

The program would plug in actual Forest Service data, various weather conditions from the National Weather Service and run it through a simulator. It’s designed to show the numerous ways these conditions would affect a wildfire, including the path a wildfire may take.

“It can give you information really fast that could save lives and property,” Dodd said.

The information from the program could be sent to firefighters in the field.

“It’s decision-support,” Dodd said. “Helping authorities in making better and faster decisions.”

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