Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Siberian Fires Most Common Near People

04.02.2005


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:
http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/siberian_fires.html

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>