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SDG&E, UC San Diego Partner To Study Extreme Weather

Gray skies hang over San Diego Bay as a storm moves through the region on Jan...

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: Gray skies hang over San Diego Bay as a storm moves through the region on Jan 25, 2021.

San Diego Gas and Electric is expanding its relationship with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

They hope to work together to better understand the real-world impacts of a changing climate.

Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

The region’s investor-owned utility is looking to fund more research and to share resources with academicians at UC San Diego looking into the impacts of climate change.

Both are interested in understanding the impact of extreme weather events that are happening because the global temperature is going up.

Reported by Erik Anderson , Video by Christopher Maue

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Flooding along the coast is just one area of concern.

“That’s really going to help us understand, are we at risk of a compounding coastal flooding, here in San Diego going forward,” said Chris Ahrens, the SDG&E meteorology program manager. “How’s that going to affect San Diego at large.”

SDG&E has long studied wildfire risks in the backcountry.

As part of a billion-dollar upgrade, the utility built a backcountry weather tracking network that is one of the most extensive rural monitoring systems in the world.

UC San Diego researchers are now able to tap into that system to study events like last month’s storms.

“There were incredibly intense winds,” said Angelica Rodriguez, a postdoctoral researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “And so having that data available to look at right away, immediately after is pretty valuable in looking at the sorts of events that we should be looking at in our models.”

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Improving models helps scientists improve predictions.

That’s one area where SDG&E sees value in the partnership.

Monitoring wildfire risks has long been a priority for the company, but the investor-owned utility also wants to know when the climate can help cut the risk of wildfires.

“What are the amounts of rainfall we need to really put out the fire season for good,” Ahrens said. “How can we actually quantify when fire season is over and we can kind of back off on the resource allocation.”

Current climate research suggests there will be even more extreme weather events in Southern California as the planet and region warm.

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Photo of Erik Anderson

Erik Anderson
Environment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.

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