From space, we can understand fires in ways that are impossible from the ground. The MODIS instrument onboard the Terra and Aqua satellite, was specifically designed to detect fires. As a result, it can see both smaller fires and a wide range of fires from cool grass fires to raging forest fires. Burning carbon particles both on the tiny soot particles in the flame and on the fuel itself emit a very specific wavelength of light, 3.8 to 4 microns. NASA research has contributed to much improved detection of fire for scientific purposes using satellite remote sensing and geographic information systems. This has helped advance our understanding of the impacts of fire in many areas of earth science, including atmospheric chemistry and the impacts on protected areas. This research has led to the development of a rapid response system widely used throughout the world for both natural resource management and for firefighting by providing near real-time information.
The visualization shows fires detected in Africa from July 2002 through July 2011. Africa has more abundant burning than any other continent. MODIS observations have shown that some 70 percent of the world's fires occur in Africa alone. "It's incredibly satisfying to see such a long record of fires visualized," said Chris Justice, a scientist from the University of Maryland who leads NASA's effort to use MODIS data to study the world's fires. "It's not only exciting visually, but what you see here is a very good representation of the data scientists use to understand the global distribution of fires and to determine where and how fires are responding to climate change and population growth."
GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version 126.96.36.199.0