Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


NASA satellite data aid United Nations' ability to detect global fire hotspots

In the midst of a difficult fire season in many parts of the world, the United Nations' (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization has launched a new online fire detection system that will help firefighters and natural hazards managers improve response time and resource management.

The Global Fire Information Management System (GFIMS) delivers fire data from an imaging sensor aboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites to generate daily fire maps and images through a freely accessible Web interface. The system also dispatches detailed email alerts of the quantity and coordinates of fires, and it does so less than three hours after a satellite passes over burning land.

"Man has been harnessing fire since prehistory. In fact, some refer to humans as the fire species," said program scientist Woody Turner of NASA's Headquarters in Washington who oversaw funding for the system's development. "But now we've got a daily overview of large fires around the world, enabling us to manage fire—and our uses of fire—better."

At the heart of the new capability is NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), an instrument that scans the entire planet from north to south poles every 1-2 days and relays remotely sensed fire data to NASA's MODIS Rapid Response team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

MODIS looks for characteristic signatures of fire based on brightness temperature from thermal radiation given off by flames, eliminates false detections of other hot areas that may be deserts or sunglint with different degrees of brightness, and flags image pixels that confirm an active fire. The team then processes data into photo-quality images of active fires.

"When I worked at Etosha National Park in Namibia -- before the MODIS imager existed – we had to painstakingly process satellite data manually, which took many hours on some days," said Diane Davies, a University of Maryland – College Park researcher and former principal investigator for the system. The time-consuming process often led to inefficient deployment of fire and rescue resources and inconsistent communications between officials.

With funding from NASA's Applied Sciences Program, scientists at the University of Maryland-College Park began developing the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) in 2006 to test whether they could quickly convert satellite snapshots of wildfires into user-friendly formats.

The system combines images with Geographical Information Systems (commonly called GIS) technology to distribute fire hotspot email alerts and other products -- downloadable fire images; fire locations that can be overlaid on Google Earth maps; customizable interactive fire mapping where users can bookmark locations of fire interest; and maps from NASA's own Google Earth-like World Wind plug-in -- to organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization as well as Conservation International.

Beyond the scope of its precursor's capability, the new UN detection system also provides country-specific reports. "Having this kind of information served up to us in an email every day is a huge advance," said Davies. The new GFIMS Web tool was officially launched on August 12, though many people have been accessing MODIS fire data through the University of Maryland's prototype FIRMS system for over a year. More than 29,000 visitors found the site on Aug. 9 alone, seeking information on the wildfires burning through more than 300 square miles of Russia's landscape.

When fires burn, smoke plumes carrying carbon monoxide and other tiny polluted particles can span hundreds of miles across populated areas. The plume in Russia, in fact, ran 1,860 miles from east to west last month. Eager to understand better the nature of fires, scientists are already putting the UN's system to use researching regional fires like Russia's and trends associated with climate change.

"Knowing how many fires are in an area during any 24-hour period and their coordinates is absolutely invaluable in saving lives, farms and homes, especially in remote places," said Turner. "The fact that the system also helps us document fires for research purposes is an added benefit."

The new FAO site includes information in English, French and Spanish, with other languages on the horizon in the months to come. Davies also expects to add maps and alerts of previously burned areas this fall, in addition to locations experiencing active fires.

Written by:
Gretchen Cook-Anderson
NASA's Earth Science News Team

Gretchen Cook-Anderson | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Forest Management Yields Higher Productivity through Biodiversity
14.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Farming with forests
23.09.2016 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>