Thompson Rivers University has joined the newly formed Climate Resilience Alliance, with the goal of making one of North America’s largest power grids more resilient to extreme weather events including wildfires.
In a press release, the university said that the US-Canadian Center for the Western Interconnected Climate Resilient Network aims to strengthen the network’s resilience to extreme weather events, such as wildfires and heat waves.
The Western Interconnected Grid is the “backbone” of one of the world’s largest “regional economic engines,” and one of two major energy grids in North America, TRU said.
The network serves nearly 80 million people over an area of 4.6 million square kilometers extending from British Columbia to the border of Baja, Mexico, and from the California coast to the Rocky Mountains, according to TRU.
TRU’s Dr. Mike Flannigan, a BC Innovation Research Chair in Predictive Services, Emergency Management and Fire Science, is working with other leading experts to address more frequent, intense and longer severe weather events.
“Our research team at TRU strongly supports this effort to better protect our communities and our electric power supply during this period of increasing challenges caused by climate change,” Flanigan said.
TRU said Flannigan’s work underscores the need to improve wildfire forecasting models, which includes predicting the probability of energy-triggered wildfires under historical weather conditions in Western Canada.
Flanigan’s work will be used to identify and mitigate hotspots in order to reduce the chance of catastrophic wildfires, according to TRU.
The newly established center has received $5 million in funding from the US National Science Foundation and $3.75 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Other academic members include the University of Calgary, the University of British Columbia, the UBC Okanagan Campus, the University of Alberta, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Regina, the University of Utah, and the WIFIRE Lab at the University of California. California San Diego, University of San Diego, University of New Mexico, and Desert Research Institute.
TRU joins the Center after recently getting the green light from the Senate to create the proposed Institute for Wildfire Science, Adaptation and Resilience.
Flanigan will head TRU’s new Wildfire Institute, which the university hopes will be a world leader in wildfire science.