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 on the Knowledge Portal

SAM Satellite

The satellites SPOT 1, 2 and 3 (Satellite Probatoire de l'Observation de la Terre) were the first generation of SPOT earth observation satellites operated by Spot Image.

The first generation SPOT satellites were built on the SPOT Mk.1 bus with a lifetime of three years.

The SPOT satellites were identical, with each carrying two identical HRV (High Resolution Visible) imaging instruments that were able to operate in two modes, either simultaneously or individually. The two spectral modes are panchromatic and multispectral. The panchromatic band had a resolution of 10 meters, and the three multispectral bands (G,R,NIR) have resolutions of 20 meters.

SPOT-2 was launched on 22 January 1990, on an Ariane-40 H10 rocket. It operated until July 2009. Its orbit was lowered to ensure reentry within 25 years.

Instruments: 2 HRVs
- 4 spectral bands (1 panchromatic, 3 multispectral)
- imaging swath: 60km x 60km to 80km

Launch date:
22/01/1990

The satellites SPOT 1, 2 and 3 (Satellite Probatoire de l'Observation de la Terre) were the first generation of SPOT earth observation satellites operated by Spot Image.

The first generation SPOT satellites were built on the SPOT Mk.1 bus with a lifetime of three years.

The SPOT satellites were identical, with each carrying two identical HRV (High Resolution Visible) imaging instruments that were able to operate in two modes, either simultaneously or individually. The two spectral modes are panchromatic and multispectral. The panchromatic band had a resolution of 10 meters, and the three multispectral bands (G,R,NIR) have resolutions of 20 meters.

SPOT 1 was launched with the last Ariane-1 rocket on 22 February 1986. At the end of operations in 2003, the orbit was lowered to gradually lose altitude until reentry.

Instruments: 2 HRVs
- 4 spectral bands (1 panchromatic, 3 multispectral)
- imaging swath: 60km x 60km to 80km

Launch date:
22/02/1986

Landsat 5 was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on March 1, 1984, and like Landsat 4, carried the Multispectral Scanner (MSS) and the Thematic Mapper (TM) instruments. Landsat 5 delivered Earth imaging data nearly 29 years - and set a Guinness World Record For 'Longest Operating Earth Observation Satellite', before being decommissioned on June 5, 2013.
The Landsat 5 satellite orbited the the Earth in a sun-synchronous, near-polar orbit, at an altitude of 705 km (438 mi), inclined at 98.2 degrees, and circled the Earth every 99 minutes.  The satellite had a 16-day repeat cycle with an equatorial crossing time: 9:45 a.m. +/- 15 minutes.  Landsat 5 data were acquired on the Worldwide Reference System-2 (WRS-2) path/row system, with swath overlap (or sidelap) varying from 7 percent at the Equator to a maximum of approximately 85 percent at extreme latitudes. 
Landsat 5 long outlived its original three-year design life. Developed by NASA and launched in... read more

Launch date:
01/03/1984

Landsat 4 was launched on July 16, 1982. The Landsat 4 spacecraft was significantly different than that of the previous Landsats, and Landsat 4 did not carry the RBV instrument.
In addition to the Multispectral Scanner System (MSS) instrument, Landsat 4 (and Landsat 5) carried a sensor with improved spectral and spatial resolution, i.e., the new satellites could see a wider (and more scientifically-tailored) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum and could see the ground in greater detail. This new instrument was known as the Thematic Mapper (TM).
Landsat 4 was kept in orbit for housekeeping telemetry command and tracking data (which it downlinked via a separate data path, the S-band) until it was decommissioned in 2001.
While Landsat 4 was built and launched by NASA, NOAA initially oversaw the operations of the satellite. Landsat 4 operations were contracted out to the Earth Observation Satellite Company (EOSAT) corporation in 1984.
... read more

Launch date:
16/07/1982

Landsat 3 was launched on March 5, 1978, three years after Landsat 2.
The Landsat program’s technical and scientific success together with political and economic pressures lead to the decision to commercialize an operational Landsat. To this end, responsibility was slated to shift from NASA (a research and development agency) to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the agency charged with operating the weather satellites. This was done via Presidential Directive/NSC-54 signed on Nov. 16, 1979 which assigned NOAA “management responsibility for civil operational land remote sensing activites.” (However, operational management was not transfered from NASA to NOAA until 1983).
Landsat 3 carried the same sensors as its predecessor: the Return Beam Vidicon (RBV) and the Multispectral Scanner (MSS). The RBV instrument on-board Landsat 3 had an improved 38 m ground... read more

Launch date:
05/03/1978

Landsat 2 was launched into space onboard a Delta 2910 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on January 22, 1975, two and a half years after Landsat 1. Originally named ERTS-B (Earth Resource Technology Satellite B), the spacecraft was renamed Landsat 2 prior to launch. The second Landsat was still considered an experimental project and was operated by NASA.
Landsat 2 carried the same sensors as its predecessor: the Return Beam Vidicon (RBV) and the Multispectral Scanner System (MSS).
On February 25, 1982 after seven years of service, Landsat 2 was removed from operations due to yaw control problems; it was offically decommissioned on July 27, 1983.

Instruments:
Return Beam Vidicon (RBV)
Multispectral Scanner (MSS)
 

Launch date:
22/01/1975

Landsat 1 was launched on July 23, 1972; at that time the satellite was known as the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS). It was the first Earth-observing satellite to be launched with the express intent to study and monitor our planet’s landmasses. To perform the monitoring, Landsat 1 carried two instruments: a camera system built by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) called the Return Beam Vidicon (RBV), and the Multispectral Scanner (MSS) built by the Hughes Aircraft Company. The RBV was supposed to be the prime instrument, but the MSS data were found to be superior. In addition, the RBV instrument was the source of an electrical transient that caused the satellite to briefly lose altitude control, according to the Landsat 1 Program Manager, Stan Weiland.
To help understand the data and to explore the potential applications of this new technology, NASA oversaw 300 private research investigators. Nearly one third of these were international scientists. These... read more

Launch date:
23/07/1972

Data Source

Copernicus Open Access Hub. Image Credit: ESA.
Publishing institution: European Space Agency (ESA)
The Copernicus Open Access Hub provides complete, free and open access to Sentinel missions data.

Noticias

Webinar on the Use of Satellite Technologies in Disaster Risk Management Research (INDECI & CONIDA)

Like many countries in Latin America, Peru is exposed to a variety of natural hazards that have triggered disasters in previous decades.   Disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts are coordinated by the National Civil Defense Institute (INDECI).   In recent years, INDECI has benefited from the advisory support provided by Peru’s National Commission for Aerospace Research and Development (CONIDA).  Taking advantage of this advisory support, INDECI developed and launched at the end of 2018 its Agenda for Applied Research for the period between 2018 and 2021, addressing the preparedness, risk, and recovery phases of disaster management. More information on this agenda is available here

The research agenda recognizes the usefulness of applied... read more

Publishing date: 03/05/2021

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