Forest Fire

The Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite captured this image of smoke from wildfires in the US state of California on 9 October 2017. Image: 	contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Definition

Wildfire, also called forest, bush or vegetation fire, can be described as any uncontrolled and non-prescribed combustion or burning of plants in a natural setting such as a forest, grassland, brush land or tundra, which consumes the natural fuels and spreads based on environmental conditions (e.g., wind, topography). Wildfire can be incited by human actions, such as land clearing, extreme drought or in rare cases by lightning (IRDR).

There are three conditions that need to be present in order for a wildfire to burn: fuel, oxygen, and a heat source. Fuel is any flammable material surrounding a fire, including trees, grasses, brush, even homes. The greater an area's fuel load, the more intense the fire. Air supplies the oxygen a fire needs to burn. Heat sources help spark the wildfire and bring fuel to temperatures hot enough to ignite. Lightning, burning campfires or cigarettes, hot winds, and even the sun can all provide sufficient heat to spark a wildfire (National Geographic).

Facts and figures

The Global Wildland Fire Network Bulletin published by the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) presents the most recent data regarding consequences of wildfire: in 2017, 36 fires in protected areas were recorded in 19 countries burning more than 196000 hectares worldwide.

Wildfire plays a mixed role for ecology and economy since some ecosystems depend on natural fires to maintaining their dynamics, biodiversity and productivity. However, every year, wildfires burn millions of hectares of forest woodlands and other vegetation, causing the loss of many human and animal lives and an immense economic damage, both in terms of resources destroyed and the costs of suppression. There are also impacts on society and the environment, such as damage to human health from smoke, loss of biological diversity, release of  greenhouse gases, damage to recreational values and infrastructure (FAO).

Most fires are caused by people. The list of human motivations include land clearing and other agricultural activities, maintenance of grasslands for livestock management, extraction of non-wood forest products, industrial development, resettlement, hunting, negligence and arson. Only in very remote areas of Canada and the Russian Federation lightning is a major cause of fires (FAO).

There are three basic types of wildfires:

  • Crown fires burn trees up their entire length to the top. These are the most intense and dangerous wildland fires.
  • Surface fires burn only surface litter and duff. These are the easiest fires to put out and cause the least damage to the forest.
  • Ground fires (sometimes called underground or subsurface fires) occur in deep accumulations of humus, peat and similar dead vegetation that become dry enough to burn. These fires move very slowly, but can become difficult to fully put out, or suppress (Government of Canada).

Related content

News

View of Southern California Wildfires From the International Space Station

A new review paper presents historical background and current developments for mapping burned area from satellite Earth observation.

The authors explore the physical basis to detect burned area from satellite observations, describes the historical trends of using satellite sensors to monitor burned areas, summarizes the most recent approaches to map burned areas and evaluates the existing burned area products, both at global and regional scales.

Different sensors used for burning radar mapping are also presented, including Radar and... read more

Publishing date: 04/04/2019
Visualization of the GPM Core Observatory satellite orbiting the planet earth.

Five years ago, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the Global... read more

Publishing date: 02/04/2019

As part of it advisory support activities, UN-SPIDER is carrying out out a Technical Advisory Mission (TAM) to Peru from 1 to 5 April to evaluate the current and potential use of space-based information in all aspects of disaster management. Based on exchanges with a wide range of stakeholders, UN-SPIDER will provide recommendations as to how to strengthen the use of space-based information in disaster risk management and emergency response in the country.

The team of experts led by UN-SPIDER is conducting multiple activities and institutional visits in Lima. The team is comprised of eight experts from UN-SPIDER; the German Aerospace Centre (... read more

Publishing date: 01/04/2019
Sentinel-2 image shows burnscars near Cape Town, South Africa. The false-colour image shows burnt areas in dark greys and browns, and areas covered with vegetation in red.Image: ESA/ CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Using imagery of the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite, researchers from Spain, the United Kingdom and Germany have discovered that more areas in Sub-Saharan Africa are affected by wildfire than previously estimated. In their open-access paper, published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment, the researchers delineate how they created the first detailed continental map of burnt areas caused by wildfires for 2016.

Specific satellites, such as Sentinel-2, are used to detect disasters like wildfires and map their spreading in order to support relief efforts. Afterwards, the satellites images are used to monitor the traces the fires left behind, especially in remote regions.

Sub-Saharan Africa was picked because... read more

Publishing date: 18/02/2019

Event

Out of control wildfires cause extreme long-term damage to the environment, wildlife, flora and property every year. Sentinel-2 imagery provides an accurate post-event analysis of wildfire extents since small areas can be detected and assessed, while at the same time reducing the need for ground surveys on often difficult terrain. In addition, the information obtained can be used to carry out risk assessments of affected and surrounding areas and Sentinel-2 data collected over time can be used to monitor... read more

Land cover changes can impact many areas of life. These changes can affect deforestation, ecological communities, wildfire extent, and urban growth. This advanced series focused on using satellite imagery to map changes in land cover. Users will learn change detection methods, including image subtraction and classification. They will also conduct their own change detection analysis. This training will use QGIS, the R statistical program, and the Random Forest algorithm.

This is a free available online course from the program Applied Remote Sensing Training (ARSET) from NASA that includes videos and... read more

This webinar provides the basics of image processing for active fire detection. It demonstrates how to access the RUS Service and how to download, process, analyse and visualize the free data acquired by the Copernicus satellites. The ESA-SNAP Sentinel-1 Toolbox will be employed to demonstrate the methodology to map active wild fires.

Data Source

Publishing institution: Global Paleofire Working Group (GPWG)
Global and regional syntheses which enable the examination of broad-scale patterns in paleofire activity, creating a framework for exploring the linkages among fire, Human, climate and vegetation at centennial-to-multi-millennial time scales and allowing for evaluation of fire model simulations at regional to global scales
Publishing institution: Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED)
Fires are an important source of atmospheric trace gases and aerosols and they are the most important disturbance agent on a global scale. In addition, deforestation and tropical peatland fires and areas that see an increase in the frequency of fires add to the build-up of atmospheric CO2. GFED have combined satellite information on fire activity and vegetation productivity to estimate gridded monthly burned area and fire emissions, as well as scalars that can be used to calculate higher temporal resolution emissions. Most of the resulting datasets are downloadable from this website for use in large-scale atmospheric and biogeochemical studies. The core datasets are: - Burned area - Burned area from "small" fires based on active fire detections outside the burned area maps - Carbon and dry matter emissions - Fractional contributions of various fire types to total emissions - List of emission factors to compute trace gas and aerosol emissions
Publishing institution: European Space Agency (ESA)
ESA's Earth Observation Thematic Exploitation Platform (TEP) is a browser for satellite imagery and specific products on an environmental topic. The TEP platforms are divided into 7 categories: Coastal; Forstry; Geohazards; Hydrology; Polar; Urban; and Food Security. Each platform is a collaborative, virtual work environment providing access to EO data and the tools, processors and Information and Communication Technology resources required to work with them. TEP aims to bridge the gap between the users and the data and tools.

Pages

Hazard group

Terms in the same hazard group

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.