Fires

Overview

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: https://lance.modaps.eosdis.nasa.gov/

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 websitehttp://www.fs.fed.us/eng/rsac/

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

August 9, 2018
False color RGB images of the Mendecino Complex fires from the ER-2 MASTER sensor, collected on 8/9/18. 
False color RGB image of the Mendocino Complex fires from ER-2's MASTER sensor, collected on 8/9/18.  The ER-2 aircraft carrying the MASTER (the NASA MODIS/ASTER) sensor flew over Mendocino Complex Fires on August 9, 2018. The sensor captured images of both fires in the area with the Ranch Fire on the north side of Clear Lake and the River Fire on the south side. The products are false color RGB composites, which allow for the identification of various features...
August 6, 2018
These collections of visible-wavelength (RGB) digital camera images were taken by astronauts onboard the International Space Station on August 2-4, 2018, then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space Center The images provide regional context, and may be useful for visualization of the ongoing event. Higher spatial resolution images may be suitable for spatial analysis to support...
August 6, 2018
Aqua MODIS data acquired August 2nd, 2018. 
Aqua MODIS natural color image acquired August 2nd, 2018. Aqua MODIS false color image acquired August 2nd, 2018.  Wildfires continue to rage in Northern California and other parts of the American West. Thousands of firefighters are battling fires fueled by hot, mostly dry weather and strong winds. On August 2, 2018, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer ...
December 11, 2017
Acquired December 5-7th, 2017
Acquired December 5-7th, 2017 This data was acquired by the ”Classic” Airborne Visible Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS-C) instrument on December 5-7th. This is an instrument that flies on NASA Armstrong Flight Center’s high altitude ER-2 aircraft. It observes light in visible and infrared wavelengths, measuring the full spectrum of radiated energy. Unlike regular cameras with three colors, AVIRIS-C has 224 channels from the visible through the shortwave infrared, which...
December 14, 2017
Damage Proxy Map for Southern California Fire.
Graphic produced December 13, 2017 with imagery acquired 11/28/17 & 12/10/17 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 Southern California, including Ventura, that are likely damaged (shown by red and yellow pixels) as a result of wildfires. The map is derived from synthetic aperture radar (...
October 27, 2017
PolSAR Mosaic Image
UAVSAR aboard the NASA502 aircraft imaged Napa County, California on October 16 to observe areas affected by several wildfires that started on October 8 and burned thousands of buildings as well as vineyards and forests. PolSAR mosaick of HH, HV, VV polarization overlay images. The fire perimeters (red) are from the USGS Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination website as of October 17.   The fires from north to south are: Pocket, Tubbs, Nunn, and Atlas respectively...
October 25, 2017
NASA's Terra Satellite Image
As firefighters continue to work toward full containment of the rash of wildfires burning in Northern California. This image from NASA's Terra Satellite acquired on Oct. 21, 2017, shows the growing fire scar on the landscape. As firefighters continue to work toward full containment of the rash of wildfires burning in Northern California, a new image from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA's Terra satellite shows the growing...
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.     
February 9, 2017
The interactive map on the website shows images of areas with fires or floods, taken by NASA's AQUA satellite and the International Space Station (ISS).
Visit the interactive map website: http://science.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=9ef5b5839... The interactive map on the website shows images of areas with fires or floods, taken by NASA's AQUA satellite and the International Space Station (ISS). The United States and Argentina have combined resources to produce a Spanish language...
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
June 14, 2017
ISS Georeferenced Digital Camera Images from South Africa 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 June 14th, 2017, then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space...
June 7, 2017
MISR-MINX height map smoke plume.
Wildfire outbreaks can generate a significant amount of atmospheric aerosols that can have regional to global impacts on Earth’s energy balance and surface temperature. To determine the influence of wildfires, accurate plume heights are needed, but are difficult to obtain in areas of significant cloud cover. Stereo images from NASA’s Multi-Angle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR) make it possible to retrieve plume heights using parallax by constraining the smoke plume layer height. When the retrieval height is significantly below the Lifting Condensation Level (LCL), the effects of cloud...
April 28, 2017
Comparison of 2016 Landsat 8 mosaic image with recent Landsat image showing burn scars.
Download Hi-Res Image (.jpg, 15MB) These images from the Landsat 8 satellite show the effects of the recent wildfires in Guatemala on the Guatemala Mayan Biosphere Reserve. The left image is a mosaic composite of Landsat images from 2016, and the right image is a Landsat 8 image from April 19, 2017. 
April 1, 2017
Aqua true-color image overlaid with active-fire detections, shown in red, take from MODIS (onboard Terra and Aqua) and VIIRS (onboard Suomi-NPP), showing smoke streaming from wildfires in Guatemala on April 1st 2017.
Fires started to burn in early March in the protected regions of Sierra del Lacandón National Park (also Laguna del Tigre), which is located in the tropical rain forest in the north west of Guatemala.   Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) data are being used to locate fire lines that are difficult to see from the ground, and these data are also being used to analyze long term fire trends.  One Guatemalan weekly report highlighted the improved value of VIIRS data to locate small fires and the valuable long–term...
February 2, 2017
On January 24, 2017, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite acquired this false-color image of scorched land flanked by actively burning fires.
On January 24, 2017, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite acquired this false-color image of scorched land flanked by actively burning fires.  Wildfires continued to ravage Chile’s countryside in early February 2017, weeks after they flared up in mid-January. The blazes have thwarted firefighters’ efforts to control them, with new hot spots emerging daily. Satellite data and scientific analysis suggest the fires are among the worst the country has seen in...
January 24, 2017
On January 20, 2017, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired an image of brown smoke billowing from a cluster of fires near the coastal city of Pichilemu.
On January 20, 2017, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired an image of brown smoke billowing from a cluster of fires near the coastal city of Pichilemu. Smoke from dozens of forest fires billowed over central Chile in January 2017. A heat wave, coupled with strong winds, spread the flames on January 20, prompting President Michelle Bachelet to declare a state of emergency in some areas. On January 20, 2017, the Moderate...
January 5, 2017
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this natural-color image of a smoke plume south of Río Colorado on December 29, 2016.
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this natural-color image of a smoke plume south of Río Colorado on December 29, 2016. Dense smoke rose above a rash of wildfires in the Pampas region of Argentina in late December 2016 and early January 2017. Over the past month, roughly two dozen fires have spread across the rural landscape. The blazes were likely started by thunderstorms that followed a stretch of hotter-than-average weather, according to ...

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