Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Siberian Fires Most Common Near People


While Siberia may be one of the last expanses on Earth where human presence is relatively scarce, scientists are finding some surprising connections between humans and fires in these frigid, northern forests. Until now, most researchers assumed that lightning caused most of the fires that burned in Siberia. But a new study by NASA scientists and others used a NASA satellite to map where and when fires lit up over a three year period. The satellite showed that Siberian fires burned mostly near people.

The study looked at an area in Central Siberia covering a little less than 6 million square kilometers (2,317,000 square miles). The number of fires in these areas varied greatly from year to year. For example, in 2001, less than half a percent of the land, or about 27,000 square kilometers (10,420 square miles) caught fire and burned. In 2003, that number tripled to almost 1.4 percent, or roughly 81,000 square kilometers (31,270 square miles) of land. But for each of the three years between 2001 and 2003 where data were available, the study found that most of the fires occurred in areas near where people had changed the land cover with roads, rail lines, towns and cities, industrial areas and other features related to humans. In fact, roads were the man-made feature with the greatest link to fires, with 97 percent of all fires in 2003 occurring within 300 kilometers (186 miles) of a major road.

But, the researchers caution, the striking link does not yet prove that humans are causing these fires. For starters, most of the fires were detected in southern areas, where it is warmer and drier, and where more people live. In the northern part of Siberia, above 65 degrees north, the soil freezes for most of the year, and when it melts the ground is soggy. These conditions make it hard for both people and fires to survive. In the south, where summers are longer, drier and warmer, more fires would occur regardless of human presence. In order to find clearer answers to questions of how and whether or not humans may be contributing to fires, more studies are needed to examine cultural practices in the area and how they relate to fires.

"There is some anecdotal evidence that people build small fires to temporarily stay warm outdoors, keep the bugs away from cattle, cook, or burn trash. The wind may carry the sparks from these fires and end up setting forests on fire by accident, but that is all speculation at this point," said Katalin Kovacs, and an assistant research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Kovacs is the lead author of the study that appeared in a recent issue of the journal Earth Interactions.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite coupled with a Geographic Information System were used to map where and when Siberian fires took place over the three year period. Terra flies over this area twice in a 24-hour period. The researchers analyzed data from March through November for each of the three years. The rest of the year, the ground is snow covered, the area is very dark and few fires occur. MODIS detects hot spots in the landscape and assigns whether there is high, medium or low likelihood that a fire is present. The researchers used data points where high and medium likelihoods of fires existed. About 2 percent of the fires that MODIS detected were from industrial sources, like gas flares and smelteries. The researchers carefully removed these points before conducting their study.

In a related but separate analysis, the scientists found strong relationships between forest fires and agricultural fires, which were purposely set by farmers to clear fields and renew the soils. Forest fires were much more likely to burn near farmlands that were burned, than in forested areas away from such farmlands.

Future studies will attempt to separate out natural fires from those caused by humans. Hopefully, as the causes of these fires become clear, research like this may help people better understand the relationships between humans and fires, and how people might better manage these forest blazes. It is only through satellites like Terra that such studies can be possible, as a result of the comprehensive and reliable information that MODIS provides on hot spots on the ground.

Krishna Ramanujan | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

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...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

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

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>