By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director
As wildfire season bears down on California, and tears across Texas, San Jose State researchers are preparing to hit the road in their quest to learn more about wildfire behavior. Firefighters will use the results to improve their ability to predict the direction and speed of blazes, thereby saving lives and property. Headed by meteorology Assistant Professor Craig Clements, the group uses a few truckloads of equipment, including a custom built metal tower and a wind profiler that looks like a giant funnel to measure conditions in and around blazes. Unless we are hit by a real wildfire first, the team will test its equipment next month, when Cal Fire stages a “controlled burn.” While firefighters practice dousing the blaze, Clements and his students will employ one of their newest pieces of equipment. LIDAR uses a laser to scan the blaze and produce an image similar to the weather radar we see on television news programs every night. A National Science Foundation grant paid for the LIDAR equipment, which San Jose State shares with San Francisco State. Rob Mayeda, an NBC Bay Area meteorologist, attended a controlled burn near Mount Hamilton over the summer and produced an excellent news story on Clements’ research. You can also learn more by viewing Clements’ website.