Dynamic and Robust Wildfire Risk Prediction System: An Unsupervised Approach

author: Laura Rusu, IBM Research
published: Sept. 22, 2016,   recorded: August 2016,   views: 1129

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Ability to predict the risk of damaging events (e.g. wildfires) is crucial in helping emergency services in their decision-making processes, to mitigate and reduce the impact of such events. Today, wildfire rating systems have been in operation extensively in many countries around the world to estimate the danger of wildfires. In this paper we propose a data-driven approach to predict wildfire risk using weather data. We show how we address the inherent challenge arising due to the temporal dynamicity of weather data. Weather observations naturally change in time, with finer-scale variation (e.g. stationary day or night) or large variations (non-stationary day or night), and this determines a temporal variation of the predicted wildfire danger.

We show how our dynamic wildfire danger prediction model addresses the aforementioned challenge using context-based anomaly detection techniques. We call our predictive model a Context-Based Fire Risk (CBFR) model. The advantage of our model is that it maintains multiple historical models for different temporal variations (e.g. day versus night), and uses ensemble learning techniques to predict wildfire risk with high accuracy. In addition, it is completely un-supervised and does not rely on expert knowledge, which makes it flexible and easily applied to any region of interest. Our CBFR model is also scalable and can potentially be parallelised to speed up computation. We have considered multiple wildfire locations in the Blue Mountains, Australia as a case study, and compared the results of our system with the existing well-established Australian wildfire rating system. The experimental results show that our predictive model has a substantially higher accuracy in predicting wild-fire risk, which makes it an effective model to supplement the operational Australian wildfire rating system.

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