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.

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

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 website...
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). The images...
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 Center
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 decades....
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 Resolution Imaging...
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 ...
August 24, 2016
Four Fires Plague Southern California
Dry and hot weather conditions in the southern part of California as well as a spate of careless humans and lightning strikes have created an environment rife for fire outbreaks.  Four very large fires are currently causing havoc in the area and NASA's Suomi NPP satellite's VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) instrument captured this image of all four fires on August 23, 2016. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red.  The Soberanes Fire...
July 28, 2016
Sand and Soberanes Fires Still Blazing in California
The Sand and Soberanes fires in California continue to blaze, however, the Sand Fire (lower fire) is 65% contained whereas the Soberanes Fire (upper fire) remains only 10% contained.   The Soberanes fire activity increased due to lower humidity and higher temperatures, which continues to present as a challenge in controlling the fire. A private hired equipment bull dozer operator was fatally injured last evening (July 26, 2016). A State of Emergency has been declared by the Governor...
September 21, 2016
Soberanes wildfires
False-color image from the Landsat 8 OLI that and combines shortwave infrared, near-infrared, and green light to provide a clear view of the charred landscape (dark red).  Natural color image from Landsat 8. In late July 2016, an illegal campfire gave rise to the Soberanes fire that grew near...
July 26, 2016
Smoke from California's Sand and Soberanes Fires Observed by NASA's MISR
The Sand Fire in the Santa Clarita Valley area of Southern California erupted on Friday, July 22, 2016, and rapidly grew to more than 37,000 acres (58 square miles, or 150 square kilometers) over the weekend. As of Tuesday, July 26, hundreds of residents still remain under evacuation orders, and the fire claimed the life of a local resident. The fire is currently 25 percent contained. The Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite passed over the...
July 25, 2016
Sand and Soberanes Fires Largest in California At Present
The Sand and Soberanes Fires have the unhappy distinction of the being the largest fires in California at present.  The Sand Fire, whose cause is currently under investigation, began on July 22, 2016 and quickly grew to its current size of 33,117 and is 10% contained.  The United States Forest Service, Los Angeles County Fire and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office are in "Unified Command." Evacuations are in place. Over 2964 firefighters are engaged fighting this fire. The resources that are...

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