We discuss how modern technology can help in the fight against climate fires.
The continued onset of climate change is drastically altering various elements of the world around us. It’s vital that we all take steps now to reduce the potential for negative irreversible consequences in the future. However, there are aspects of climate change that seem to be present now and may well be more prevalent as the years go by.
One of the key examples of this is climate fires. These are wildfires that occur as a result of or are exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Such fires also have the ability to cause further damage to ecosystems, alongside disrupting the lives of people living nearby.
The good news is that our communities are not entirely powerless in the face of these challenges. As with so many sustainability issues, the mindful application of tools and knowledge can result in positive outcomes for everyone. We’re going to take a closer look at how we can leverage technology in the fight against climate fires.
6 Ways Technology Can Help in the Fight Against Climate Fires
Drones have become a familiar feature of our contemporary society. However, they serve a greater purpose than simply getting epic footage of breathtaking vistas. They can also be positive tools for preventing and addressing climate-related wildfires. Not to mention that as portable, electronically-powered devices, they can be sustainable in themselves when paired with solar charging methods.
At the moment, there is a trend for utilizing drones in influencing effective firefighting protocols. The cameras mounted to drones essentially make them a maneuverable tool for locating fires at the earliest point. This also tends to make them impactful in search-and-rescue operations when fires are already occurring. Many are equipped with thermal imaging cameras so that even when there is dense tree cover or thick smoke, drones can pinpoint the source and path of wildfires.
Importantly, drones are good for accurately communicating the other risks climate-related wildfires pose both to the public and emergency services. Particularly when they are equipped with light detection and ranging (lidar) equipment, drones can provide data not just on the surface condition of areas but also on the structural integrity of buildings and geography. Authorities can then take steps to ensure rescue workers and the public can navigate these spaces without unnecessary risks even after the fires have been extinguished.
The fight against climate fires isn’t just about tackling them as they arise. It’s also important to understand the potential for them to occur and the damage they’re likely to do. As digital technology has become more advanced over the years, computer modelling software has emerged as a robust and accurate predictive tool.
Simulation platforms have become sufficiently advanced that they can process multiple data points on climate fires in specific areas and provide information on likely scenarios. Such tools often utilize satellite imagery, historical meteorological information, and forestry surveys. Importantly, computer modelling software can also use nuanced data regarding tree combustion to simulate the potential spread of fires in affected areas under specific climate conditions.
Experienced data scientists are then able to utilize these simulations to present accurate predictions of both the likelihood of fires occurring as the climate changes and the impact they could have on communities. This allows for better prevention, preparation, and response. Local authorities and community members can see where they should make changes to mitigate blazes. Emergency services can pinpoint spaces for controlled burns as well as shift resources to the most at-risk areas.
Remote Sensors in the IoT
The Internet of Things (IoT) is currently a prevalent part of the digital landscape for many people. This ecosystem of connected devices provides convenience and even helps sustainability through energy-efficient smart thermostats and lighting systems. Yet, it’s also important to understand that tools in the IoT have a serious role to play in the fight against climate fires.
Among the key components of the IoT are remote sensors. Some of these are directly attached to more complex devices, while others are static tools with no other purpose than to collect data. In both cases, items are being used to monitor environmental conditions and provide early warnings for the potential and presence of wildfires.
This is accomplished by placing sensors throughout areas at risk of wildfires. Sometimes these are attached to trees, staked in the ground, or fixed to buildings. Many are powered by solar panels. The sensors then collect a range of data points from the surrounding area, such as changes in temperature, moisture, wind direction, and thermal anomalies that trigger climate-related wildfires. These are then paired with applications that alert authorities about raised risks or even the onset of fires, in some cases before they’re visible to the human eye. This aids in faster responses and boosts the efficacy of preventative measures.
Climate Monitoring AI
Artificial intelligence (AI) is getting more effective and accurate all the time. The last several years have seen leaps in machine learning that are integral to making AI platforms practical tools across a range of areas. With quality data and analytics programming, AI-driven climate monitoring systems are helping to ensure communities and professionals are better informed about the developing risks of wildfires.
Most recently, the World Economic Forum (WEF) FireAId initiative completed a trial in Turkey, which has seen significant wildfire damage related to climate. The AI system collected and created a rich data landscape, including meteorological information, prior wildfire data, and geological conditions, among others. This allowed the system to produce a dynamic mapping system that provided insights into threats related to changes in the climate.
The trials of such AI systems are already proving to help speed up response times in the event of fires. At the moment, these are largely predictive in nature. However, the WEF report on FireAId linked points to projects already underway to make AI-driven alert systems able to produce recommendations based on changing real-time data. In the near future, there may also be potential for these platforms to interact with autonomous vehicles to directly combat early signs of fires with minimal human intervention.
It’s important to also remember that residential properties can also contribute to or exacerbate wildfires. Homeowners should get to know the causes of house fires and how to prevent them. For instance, ensuring that cooking food isn’t left unattended or making certain heating equipment is regularly inspected. Nevertheless, there are also technology-supported elements that can help ensure houses and other buildings are both not the cause of and are protected from climate fires.
One of the most impactful approaches to this is investing in fire-resistant materials. The advances in technology have enabled businesses to more effectively develop and test fire-resistant components of a building’s structure and furnishings. This includes chemicals on fire-resistant insulation, glass fibre drywall, and coatings for windows, walls, and doors.
Computational modelling is used to simulate the effects of fire on certain materials. These platforms allow developers to more quickly and accurately test different compositions of materials. Some materials developers also utilize thermal imaging cameras. These evaluate the temperature and heat distribution within each material during physical tests. They then utilize the results to establish whether the materials or coatings are likely to offer protection during wildfires, the extent to which they offer protection, and where improvements can be made.
When homeowners utilize these materials wherever possible in their homes, they are not just protecting their own homes. They also potentially play a role in preventing the further spread of climate fires that affect their neighbourhoods. Not to mention that the property value of more fire-resistant homes is likely to be higher in areas that regularly experience wildfires.
Air Quality Monitoring
Flames are not the only risks that arise from climate fires. Some of the most serious damage that arises from wildfires are related to smoke and other fumes. Alongside emissions from natural materials, the atmosphere can be made more toxic as a result of fire damage to properties and chemicals in the area. This means that local ecosystems may experience drops in air quality that could affect the health and well-being of everything living in the area.
It is, therefore, vital to leverage technology that performs reliable air quality monitoring. Advanced sensors can be placed throughout locations that have already been affected by climate fires or are at high risk. These devices can then offer real-time data on components including carbon monoxide, particulate matter to PM2.5 and PM10 levels, and ozone, among others. This allows authorities to provide locals with relevant information about responsible protective and preventive actions.
There is also an increasing number of online services and mobile applications that provide information regarding air quality in wildfire areas. For instance, in New Zealand, the United Nations (UN) has partnered with IQAir to produce the free AirVisual app. This empowers users with real-time information on changes in pollutants and particulate matter in their local area. This can be paired with smartphones and smartwatches to provide early warning notifications on new developments in air quality that may be caused by climate fires.
Climate fires look likely to be an increasing part of many people’s futures. It’s important to utilize technologies that both minimize the risks to the population and mitigate environmental damage. Predictive tools like computer modelling and AI can be powerful components in understanding where and how fires can spread. It’s also vital to adopt drones and sensors as part of effective early warning systems that enable a fast response.
Individuals should be aware of how fire-resistant materials and air quality monitoring apps can be part of their personal efforts, too. We each have a role to play in protecting the environment from wildfires and technology can be an invaluable part of our approach.
About the Author
Amanda Winstead is a writer focusing on many topics including technology and digital marketing. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.