Wildland fire research and applications spans across multiple NASA programs, and fire itself, is an integral natural process that acts to maintain ecosystem biodiversity and structure.  Wildland fire, which includes any non-structure fire that occurs in vegetation or natural fuels, is an essential process that connects terrestrial systems to the atmosphere and climate.  However, the effects of fire can be disastrous, both immediately (e.g., poor air quality, loss of life and property) and through post-fire impacts (floods, debris flows/landslides, poor water quality).

Burning forest fire. Image Credit: Conard

Image Credit: Conard

NASA Earth observations and models are used to support pre-, active- and post-fire research, as well as the applicable use of these data and products in support of management decisions and strategies, policy planning and in setting rules and regulations.  A few examples are provided below that highlight NASA capabilities and our ability to engage partners and provide information to stakeholder communities.  

Active Fire Assessment

Working with NASA research and applied communities, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS), an enhanced active fire detection (Thermal Anomaly) algorithm and product was developed and is in use operationally.  These new data are derived using data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite.  These enhanced data products provide higher spatial resolution and are publically available worldwide:

The USFS and NASA work closely to ensure data are quickly available for regional planning, fire identification and model initialization.  Summarized satellite and fire data that are applicable to fire management communities are available through the USFS website

Disaster Mitigation

Through the NASA Applied Science Program Wildland Fires, Principle Investigators and their teams have rapidly responded to numerous national and international fire events to provide information critical to disaster mitigation.  For example, the Fort Mc Murray fire burned in Alberta, Canada from 1 May to 5 July 2016 and consumed 607,028 hectares (6,070 km^2).  The fire forced more than 80,000 people from their homes, and it is the costliest disaster in Canadian history (estimated $3.58 billion).

Tracing smoke: Implications for air quality, health and climate

NASA data are capable of viewing a slice of smoke through the atmosphere and tracking these smoke-laden emissions around the Earth.  With this type of lidar data, we are able to accurately estimate the height of smoke; this is significant because smoke travels faster at higher altitudes.  With this information, we are able to provide accurate air quality warnings.

Latest Updates

October 19, 2017
MODIS and CATS Imagery acquired Oct 11, 2017
Over a dozen wildfires have been burning since Oct. 08, 2017 in Northern California, killing 31 people, burning 2220,000+ acres and destroying over 3,500 homes. Smoke has blanketed the San Francisco Bay area, as shown in MODIS and CATS imagery from Oct. 11, 2017 (red circle). The smoke plume extends as high as 3-4 km according to the CATS backscatter and has resulted in the worst air quality ever recorded in many parts of the Bay Area.     
October 18, 2017
EOSDIS Worldview Image showing smoke plums
CALIPSO Ground Track on 10/13/2017           Vertical profiles of the near-field smoke plumes from the fires burning in California on October 13th, 2017.  These CALIOP data (space-based lidar) can be used for Air Quality, Hazardous plume location, and for the potential initialization of transport models.   CALIOP Vertical Feature Mask and Subtype  At this time, the smoke is not hovering near the ground....
October 17, 2017
This is a Damage Proxy Map depicting areas in Northern California
The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Caltech, also in Pasadena, created this Damage Proxy Map (DPM) depicting areas in Northern California that are likely damaged (shown by red and yellow pixels) as a result of wildfires. The map is derived from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA...
October 13, 2017
Landsat image of wildfires acquired October 11, 2017
Acquired October 11, 2017 Acquired October 11, 2017 Devastating wildfires have burned through California’s wine country since October 8, 2017, taking dozens of lives and leaving thousands of people homeless. Even communities distant from the fires have been plagued by ...
August 1, 2017
ISS Georeferenced Digital Camera Images from Montenegro Wildfires 2017
Click here to view the full image collection and download  high quality georeferenced images. This collection of digital camera images was taken by astronauts onboard the International Space Station on August 1st, 2017, then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space Center