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 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 prospective...

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