Publication Date

Fall 2020

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Meteorology and Climate Science

Advisor

Craig B. Clements

Keywords

Diablo Winds, Fire Weather, Meteorology, Numerical Simulations, PSPS, WRF

Subject Areas

Meteorology; Environmental science; Atmospheric sciences

Abstract

Recent high impact wildfire events across California have piloted the implementation of grid de-energization by utilities across the state. The largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), deployed this tactic on seven separate occasions during 2019, four of which occurred in October. This recent ploy has been established in the wake of many deadly wildfires such as the 2018 Camp Fire as an ignition mitigation tactic. Conditions such as the state of the fuels, meteorological conditions, and the consequent fire danger were evaluated as the primary triggers for the October de-energizations. It was determined that the fuels were critically dry and conducive for large wildfires, and three of the four events measured meteorological conditions in excess of PG&E’s pre-defined thresholds. A primary forecast tool for PG&E is the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, and this model was used for reanalysis simulations to expose the model’s proficiencies and deficiencies. The need for a properly configured WRF was confirmed. Further, sub kilometer grid resolutions were not beneficial for windspeed forecasting. Ultimately, PSPS are necessary procedures for wildfire mitigation, but they are not a long-term solution. Utility companies must implement infrastructure hardening tactics. Meanwhile, improvements in forecasting PSPS conditions with WRF are necessary.

Available for download on Wednesday, July 28, 2021

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