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Scripps Oceanography and San Diego Gas & Electric Expand Climate Change Research Collaboration

A newly signed agreement will help facilitate collaborative and applied research to address the effects of climate change in the San Diego region

The San Diego coastline on a cloudy day. The bay is seen in the foreground with the city skyline and a bridge seen in the background.

San Diego skyline during a storm survey. Photo: Laura Engeman

Utility San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to conduct research on the effects of climate hazards to the San Diego region.

Increases in climate-related hazards affect San Diego residents and their access to reliable power. The collaboration will assess the risks that coastal flooding, extreme rainfall variability, sea-level rise and wildfires have on SDG&E operations, infrastructure and customers, with emphasis on creating an early warning coastal flood model. Scripps’ core effort is to aid SDG&E in optimizing operations; contribute to the safety of people, property and infrastructure; and establish San Diego as a model of climate resilience. This collaboration to advance understanding of ocean, weather and climate conditions will help to address climate hazards and to mitigate the effects they have on the day-to-day lives of San Diego residents.

“This collaboration between Scripps and SDG&E is an opportunity for both of us to improve our understanding of climate change and its impacts on the San Diego region, an important issue that affects us all,” said Scripps Director Margaret Leinen. “Not only is this a chance to make breakthroughs in climate science, but also to benefit the San Diego community. I look forward to what we can accomplish together.”

This MOU is a continuation of an existing collaboration between Scripps Oceanography and SDG&E. In 2018, SDG&E and Scripps’ Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCCIA) established a collaboration that included the Resilient Futures: San Diego Bay project. This ongoing project uses a bay-wide observational network of pressure sensors and gauges to enhance understanding of water level extremes, wave energy and potential flooding both now and in the future. In 2019, the contract was extended for three years and expanded to include the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) and other researchers at Scripps.

“It is an absolute pleasure working with the brilliant thought leaders from Scripps Institution of Oceanography,” said Chris Arends, meteorology program manager at SDG&E. “Blending our diverse backgrounds of academia and industry allows us to share a vision of collaborative applied ocean, weather and climate research and to advance the understanding and predictability. Together we are striving to establish SDG&E and the San Diego region as a nationally recognized model of climate resilience.”

In addition, SDG&E contributed funding to UC San Diego-operated ALERTWildfire cameras, a statewide network of nearly 650 cameras that remotely triangulate the locations of emerging fires and allow firefighters to dispatch additional resources as quickly as possible.

Angelica Rodriguez, postdoctoral scholar at CCCIA who leads the coastal monitoring effort of the Resilient Futures project, said the collaboration and forging a relationship among CCCIA, CW3E, and the California-Nevada Climate Applications Program is “one of our greatest successes thus far.”

“By employing Scripps’ state-of-the-art regional models to investigate applied problems specifically relevant to SDG&E, we are able to further their understanding of a variety of current and future climate vulnerabilities, which ultimately allows them to be better prepared through targeted planning efforts,” said Rodriguez.

The MOU is also part of SDG&E’s recent efforts to follow the California Public Utilities Commission’s mandate for California invested owned utilities to prioritize action to address climate change related needs, especially in vulnerable communities.


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