Biden-Harris administration invests in artificial intelligence (AI) to help fight wildfires

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The Thomas Fire burns along a hillside near Santa Paula, California on December 5, 2017. (Photo by Kyle Gerlatt/AFP/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO (FOX 5/KUSI) — The Biden-Harris administration has invested thousands of dollars in using artificial intelligence (AI) to help fight wildfires.

The Commerce Department and NOAA announced Thursday that the Biden-Harris Administration has invested $250,000 to develop a powerful new artificial intelligence (AI) model that will improve fire weather forecasting through better lightning forecasts. Will make it better.

The funding is part of a larger Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) investment to improve fire weather research from President Biden's Investing in America agenda.

“This investment, made possible thanks to President Biden's bipartisan infrastructure legislation, will significantly improve NOAA's fire weather forecasts while protecting firefighters who fight wildland fires. put their lives on the line every day to serve affected Americans,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

With this new funding, the Center for Satellite Applications and Research, part of NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), and the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) a Will create a custom version. of LightningCast.

This AI model uses images and data from NOAA satellites to predict lightning strikes within the next hour at any location, including the vicinity of wildfires.

NOAA says it's continuing to work to develop products to help first responders stay safe during wildland fires, including an improved lightning cast tool and testing related research to help prevent fires. Dangerous storms can be detected quickly.

“Wildland fires are a major threat to our nation,” said Michael C. Morgan, Ph.D., assistant administrator for Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction. “NOAA is committed to exploring ways to use AI, machine learning and other technologies to improve the accuracy of our forecasts and warnings, and better serve first responders as they protect lives and property. let's work.”

In the United States, an average of 61,410 wildfires started annually from 2013 to 2022, burning an average of 7.2 million acres each year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. In 2022 alone, 68,988 wildfires burned 7.6 million acres.

Meteorologists (IMETs) at NOAA's National Weather Service use LightningCast to provide wildfire incident teams with real-time information about nearby lightning risk, a new Can start a fire.

California is no stranger to using AI to help fight wildfires. In August 2023, a new initiative was announced, part of a pilot program in collaboration with the University of San Diego's AlertCalifornia program, to track potential active wildfires and other natural disasters across the state. Monitors 1,039 cameras placed.

Cal Fire has invested more than $20 million in the program over the past four years and plans to contribute another $3.5 million in the coming years.

Trials of a wildland fire-focused version of the Lightning Cast began in August 2023. NOAA says it plans to transition LightningCast to operational status in 2025, while users will continue to explore and provide feedback on the tool during this year's wildland fire season.

“LightningCast continues to evolve to meet the demand for timely and actionable information,” said Mike Pavlovans, NESDIS wildland fire program manager. “LightningCast is one of several new satellite-based tools NOAA is developing to address the growing wildland fire challenge.”

Visit NOAA's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law website to learn about current and future funding opportunities.

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