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).

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.

View NASA Earth Data Products for Fires

Tools & Resources

  • NASA Wildfires Program
  • Global Wildfire Information System (GWIS): The Global Wildfire Information System is a joint initiative of the GEO and the Copernicus Work Programs. The Global Wildfire Information System (GWIS) aims at bringing together existing information sources at regional and national level in order to provide a comprehensive view and evaluation of fire regimes and fire effects at global level.
  • Global Fire Weather Database (GFWED): The Global Fire WEather Database (GFWED) integrates different weather factors influencing the likelihood of a vegetation fire starting and spreading. It is based on the Fire Weather Index (FWI) System, the most widely used fire weather system in the world. 
  • FirecastA tool by Conservation International, Firecast uses satellite observations to track ecosystem disturbances such as fires, fire risk conditions, deforestation, and protected area encroachment, and delivers this time-sensitive information to decision makers through email alerts, maps, and reports.

 

Latest Updates

February 3, 2020
Carbon monoide levels measured by the Aura MLS instrument from July 2019 - January 2020. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 
Carbon monoxide levels measured by the Aura MLS instrument from July 2019 - January 2020. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory  Bushfires have raged in Victoria and New South Wales since November 2019, yielding startling satellite images of smoke plumes streaming from southeastern Australia on a near daily basis. The images got even more eye-popping in January 2020 when...
January 29, 2020
Aura MLS carbon monoxide measurements from multiple altitudes on January 23rd, 2020, show the CO plume off the southern tip of South America at between 68 hPa (~19km) and 32 hPa (~23km), indicating that the plume is at least 4km thick. Credit: NASA Disast
NASA researchers are using data from the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) instrument onboard the Aura satellite to track atmospheric carbon monoxide (CO) levels from the fires in Australia. Carbon monoxide is one the main trace gases emitted from fires and can be used to help track the path of smoke plumes. Carbon monoxide can also be used to track smoke which is injected directly to high altitudes from explosive fires.   This animation of Aura Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) data shows carbon...
January 27, 2020
An alternate angle of the Aqua MODIS overpass, showing areas where pyrocumulonimbus storms were detected. Credit: NASA Disasters Program, Jean-Paul Vernier (NIA / NASA LaRC)
In December 2019 and January 2020 Australia has experienced widespread and severe fires causing extensive damage to the local ecosystem and communities and blanketing the surrounding regions in smoke. By studying data from multiple Earth-observing satellites and different types of sensors, NASA researchers can get a more comprehensive understanding of the extent of the fires and their impact to the surrounding communities. Photograph of smoke rising from fires on the east coast of Australia,...
January 23, 2020
Screenshot of MISR from the NASA Disasters Mapping Portal. 
On December 16th, 2019 NASA’s Terra satellite flew over the eastern coast of Australia, capturing 3D data on the height of smoke plumes emanating from the fires with its Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument. Using data from this overpass, the NASA Disasters Program in collaboration with the Active Aerosol Plume-height (AAP) project has developed the first ever interactive 3D visualization of MISR fire plume-height data, which demonstrates the new 3D capabilities of the NASA Disasters Mapping Portal. ...
January 22, 2020
Figure 2: Data from the CALIPSO CALIOP lidar instrument shows the height, location and density of the smoke plume as it moved over New Zealand on January 1st, 2020. Credit: NASA Disasters Program, Jean-Paul Vernier (NASA LARC).
Figure 1: Suomi-NPP VIIRS true color imagery from December 31st, 2019 (background) is overlaid with VIIRS “hot spot” data (red areas) showing fire locations, and OMPS Aerosol Index (orange areas) showing the transport of the smoke plume over the Tasmanian sea. Credit: NASA Disasters Program, Jean-Paul Vernier (NIA / NASA LaRC). Created using NASA Worldview. On New Year Eve 2019 a series of massive thunderstorms generated by devastating fires across the states of New South Wales and...
January 14, 2020
This image was taken on Jan. 13, 2020 by NOAA/NASA's Suomi NPP satellite. The image shows the fires in eastern Australia and using the VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) several reflective bands have been introduced into the image to highli
NASA scientists using data from its NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite, has traced the movement of the smoke coming off the Australian fires across the globe showing that it has circumnavigated the Earth. In an image created from data gathered by the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) Nadir Mapper on Suomi NPP, a black circle shows the smoke which had been traced from its origins coming back to the eastern region of Australia after having traveled around the world. Suomi NPP carries carry five science instruments and is the first satellite mission to address the challenge of acquiring a wide...
January 9, 2020
Satellite data from the OMPS-NM instrument is used to create an ultraviolet aerosol index to track the aerosols and smoke. Credits: NASA/Colin Seftor
Satellite data from the OMPS-NM instrument is used to create an ultraviolet aerosol index to track the aerosols and smoke. Credits: NASA/Colin Seftor A fleet of NASA satellites working together has been analyzing the aerosols and smoke from the massive fires burning in Australia. The fires in Australia are not just causing devastation locally. The unprecedented conditions that include searing heat combined with historic dryness, have led to the formation of an unusually large number...
January 9, 2020
Credits: NASA Langley/Roman Kowch
The devastating fires in southeastern Australia have renewed focus on the dangers that extreme drought and heat can pose to society. Last week, fires erupted near populated areas in Victoria and New South Wales with destructive effects, resulting in one of Australia’s largest evacuations. NASA’s CALIPSO satellite provided data for a new animation that showed the aerosols generated from the smoke has spread high into the atmosphere and far to the east over the Pacific Ocean.
July 26, 2019
These highlights from the MISR Active Aerosol Plume-Height (AAP) Project  show smoke heights from the Bearnose Hill and Shovel Creek fires in Alaska on July 6th, 2019.
These images compiled by NASA’s Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) Active Aerosol Plume-Height Project illustrate smoke heights from the Bearnose Hill and Shovel Creek fires in Alaska on July 6. MISR’s stereo texture and color images enable accurate mapping of wildfire smoke-plume heights, distinguishing smoke plumes from clouds based on detected particle properties. On July 6 and 8, MISR observed multiple fire plumes emanating from a wildfire outbreak across Alaska. Imagery from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on July 6 shows dense smoke from the...
July 25, 2019
Screenshot of the IMERG Alaska wildfires visualization.
NASA’s satellite-based estimates of global precipitation can provide valuable information to officials monitoring the many wildfires that have been scorching Alaska this summer. Although wildfires regularly occur every Alaskan summer, July 2019 proved a particularly active month. Few rain gauges exist in the remote expanses of Alaskan wilderness, but wildfires unchecked can spread to populated areas within the state. Satellite-based precipitation estimates are therefore particularly valuable because of precipitation's relationship to wildfire hazard. The embedded video, above, shows data...
December 6, 2018
UAVSAR image overlaid a Googe Earth Map. Credit: Andrea Donnellan, NASA JPL, Google Earth, UAVSAR
UAVSAR image overlaid a Googe Earth Map. The red borders are fire extent from the Woolsey Fire in California.  NASA deployed a research aircraft on Nov. 15 for a nighttime flight over the California Woolsey Fire. The NASA C-20 aircraft carried sensors to map the fire scar, with a goal of identifying areas at risk of catastrophic mudslides in the coming winter rains. The aircraft took off from its base at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California, carrying the Uninhabited...
November 15, 2018
The Measurement of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) instrument is flying on board NASA's Terra satellite. It observes Carbon Monoxide (CO) in the troposphere through thermal and near infrared channels. This product was created by the MOPITT Near-Real Time system on Saturday November 10, 2018 and submitted to NASA Worldview. The images clearly show enhanced levels of carbon monoxide associated with the Camp and Woolsey wildfires in northern and...
November 14, 2018
November 12th, 2018 VIIRS Near Real-Time Fires and Thermal Anomalies product from NASA LANCE.
The images below show the California wildfires located by NASA Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Near Real-Time Fires and Thermal Anomalies product (in red points) from the Land, Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE). The map of California was provided through VIIRS true color imagery via NASA Worldview from November 9 - 12, 2018. The images show the extent of the Camp Fire, Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire burning in California. The red outlines with smoke indicate areas of active fire....
November 13, 2018
This image from NASA Worldview shows smoke from the California Camp Fire as seen by the AQUA satellite's MODIS instrument. Credits: NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS).
The six-day-old Camp Fire has already attained the unfortunate title of California's deadliest fire. The Camp Fire has already led to 42 deaths with a number of residents still unaccounted for. It is also the most destructive in California history as well with over 7,000 structures destroyed by the blaze. The fire began on Nov. 08, 2018 and has grown to a staggering 125,000 acres in just under a week. The cause of this blaze is still under investigation. California state regulators are investigating two utility companies that reported incidents close in time and location to the start of...
November 13, 2018
NASA's ARIA team created this Damage Proxy Map showing the impact of the Camp Fire in Northern California. The white rectangle shows a closer view of the town of Paradise.  NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA
NASA's ARIA team created this Damage Proxy Map showing the impact of the Camp Fire in Northern California. The white rectangle shows a closer view of the town of Paradise. This image was created by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team, using data provided by the European Space Agency's Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA Monday, November 12, NASA shared enhanced satellite map images featured above of the Camp Fire in Northern...
November 13, 2018
NASA FIRMS Near-Real Time Data 
NASA FIRMS Near-Real Time Data  NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) distributes Near Real-Time (NRT) active fire data within three hours of satellite overpass from both the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). Natural Resource Managers need to know where a fire is quickly to be able to prepare for and respond to a wildfire event. NASA FIRMS NRT helps to visualize the...
November 13, 2018
Camp Fire ARIA DPM 
Camp Fire ARIA DPM  The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, created this Damage Proxy Map (DPM) depicting areas of Southern Cailfornia that are likely damaged (shown by red and yellow pixels) as a result of the Camp Fire in Northern California. The map is derived from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites, operated by the European Space Agency (...
November 13, 2018
Woolsey Fire ARIA DPM 
Woolsey Fire ARIA DPM  The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, created this Damage Proxy Map (DPM) depicting areas of Southern Cailfornia that are likely damaged (shown by red and yellow pixels) as a result of the Woolsey Fire. The map is derived from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA). The pre-event...
November 11, 2018
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite captured the natural-color image above on November 9.
The Operational Land Imager on USGS/NASA Landsat 8 acquired this image on November 8, 2018, around 10:45 a.m. local time (18:45 Universal Time).   On November 8, 2018, the Camp Fire erupted 90 miles (140 kilometers) north of Sacramento, California. As of 10 a.m. Pacific...
November 11, 2018
ARIA's Damage Proxy Map shows areas damaged by the Woolsey Fire in California.
The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, created this Damage Proxy Map (DPM) depicting areas of Southern Cailfornia that are likely damaged (shown by red and yellow pixels) as a result of the Woolsey Fire in California. The map is derived from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA). The pre-event images were taken before...

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