Fires

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Visualizations

  • Mapping Fire Intensity (2000 through 2013)
    2013.08.08
    This visualization displays the MODIS Climate Modeling Grid (CMG) Mean Fire Radiative Power (FRP). The CMG fire products incorporate MODIS active fire data into gridded statistical summaries of fire pixel information intended for use in regional and global modeling. The products are currently generated at 0.5 degree spatial resolution. Many of the lower intensity fires shown in red were prescribed fires, lit for either agricultural or ecosystem management purposes. Orange indicates fires that were more intense with the most intense FRP being shown in yellow. Notice, many of the most intense fires occurred in higher latitudes.
  • Potential Evaporation in North America Through 2100
    2013.08.09
    This animation shows the projected increase in potential evaporation during the fire season through the year 2100, relative to 1980, based on the combined results of multiple climate models: MERRA data for 1980-2010 and an ensemble of 20 climate models for 2010-2100. The maximum increase across North America is about 1 mm/day by 2100. This concept, potential evaporation, is a measure of drying potential or "fire weather." An average increase of 1 mm/day over the whole year is a big change — 1 mm/day increase in PE is considered to be an "extreme" event for fires, similar to the conditions in Colorado in 2012. By these projections, fire years like 2012 would be the new normal in regions like the western US by the end of the 21st century.

Satellite animations

  • LDCM Spacecraft Animations and Still Images
    2011.10.05
    The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, will provide moderate-resolution (15 meter - 100 meter, depending on spectral frequency) measurements of the Earth's terrestrial and polar regions in the visible, near-infrared, short wave infrared, and thermal infrared. There are two instruments on the spacecraft, the Thermal InfraRed Sensor (TIRS) and the Operational Land Imager (OLI).

    LDCM will provide continuity with the nearly 40-year long Landsat land imaging data set. In addition to widespread routine use for land use planning and monitoring on regional to local scales, support of disaster response and evaluations, and water use monitoring, LDCM measurements directly serve NASA research in the focus areas of climate, carbon cycle, ecosystems, water cycle, biogeochemistry, and Earth surface/interior.

B-roll, satellite images and live shot interview

  • Video b-roll
    2013.08.09
    B-Roll for live shot interviews on Auguest 9, 2013.
  • 2013 satellite images
    2013.08.09
    2013 satellite images of wildfires and burn scars resulting from wildfires in the United States and Canada.

    For more information and images like these, click here .

  • Resource page with 2013 video story
    2013.08.09
    One of the most practical and efficient ways to monitor global fire is via satellites. From space, it's possible to create long-term records of burned areas on the earth. And these records show a disturbing trend: the millions of hectares burned every year by fires is increasing in the United States and most areas around the world. Some of these fires are caused by lightning, but the majority are man-made and used as a tool for forest and brush clearing, crop and pasture maintenence, or cooking. Drier climate conditions are causing both man-made and natural wildfires to burn more land. And as a result, a larger amount of carbon, stored in vegetation and biomass, is being released into the atmosphere. Studies conducted by scientists at NASA show that if we continue to rely on fossil fuels then the frequency and length of these extreme fire events is likely to increase in the future.
  • 2013 Wildfires Live Shot Interview with Dr. Doug Morton
    2013.08.09
    NASA scientist Dr. Doug Morton talks about the 2013 wildfire season as well as future trends for wildfires and how NASA resources are used to help detect and monitor wildfires around the world.
  • 2013 Wildfires live shot interview with Dr. Chris Justice
    2013.08.14
    University of Maryland NASA researcher Dr. Chris Justice talks about the 2013 wildfire season as well as future trends for wildfires and how NASA resources are used to help detect and monitor wildfires around the world.

Additional resources

  • United States Active Fires 2012
    2012.11.28
    Records maintained by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and NASA both indicate that 2012 was an extraordinary year for wildfires in the United States.

    NIFC statistics show that more than 9.1 million acres had burned as of November 30, 2012—the third highest total in a record that dates back to 1960. Also notable: despite the high number of acres burned in 2012, the total number of fires—55,505—was low, the least on the NIFC record. Average fire size in 2012 was the highest on the record.

    The visualizations depict fires that burned between January 1 and October 31, 2012, as detected by the MODIS instruments. The fires are displayed over MODIS' vegetation and snow cover data. Yellow and orange indicates fires that were more intense and had a larger area of active burning. Most of these intense fires occurred in the western United States, where lightning and human activity often sparks blazes that firefighters cannot contain. Many of the lower intensity fires shown in red were prescribed fires, lit for either agricultural or ecosystem management purposes.

    The Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) can routinely detect both flaming and smoldering fires that are aproximately 1000 square meters in size. Under pristine and extremely rare observing conditions even smaller flaming fires that are aproximately 50 square meters can be detected. Each active fire location represents the center of a 1 km pixel that is flagged by the algorithm as containing a fire within the pixel. For more information on the fire data, see the MODIS Collection 5 Active Fire Product User's Guide. For more information on the algorithm, see Giglio, L., J. Descloitres, C. O. Justice, and Y. J. Kaufman. 2003. An enhanced contextual fire detection algorithm for MODIS. Remote Sensing of Environment, 87:273-282

  • Wildfire Growth around Yellowstone National Park in 1988 (WMS)
    2004.02.13
    During the summer of 1988, wildfires burned about 1.4 million acres in and around Yellowstone National Park. Spurred by the driest summer in park history, the fires started in early July and lasted until early October. The worst day was August 20, when tremendous winds pushed the fires to burn over 150,000 acres. Although the scars from these fires are still visible in Landsat imagery from space over ten years later, the patchwork nature of the fire footprint left many unburned areas from which plant species have regenerated very successfully. This animation shows how the fires progressed in the period from June 30 though October 2, 1988, by which time the fall rain and snow had stopped the fire growth. These maps are based on daily ground observations by fire lookouts in the park and by infrared imaging cameras flown over the park at night. These observations are considered accurate to within about 100 meters.
  • Global Fire Observations and MODIS NDVI
    2011.10.18
    This visualization leads viewers on a narrated global tour of fire detections beginning in July 2002 and ending July 2011. The visualization also includes vegetation and snow cover data to show how fires respond to seasonal changes. The tour begins in Australia in 2002 by showing a network of massive grassland fires spreading across interior Australia as well as the greener Eucalyptus forests in the northern and eastern part of the continent. The tour then shifts to Asia where large numbers of agricultural fires are visible first in China in June 2004, then across a huge swath of Europe and western Russia in August, and then across India and Southeast Asia through the early part of 2005. It moves next to Africa, the continent that has more abundant burning than any other. MODIS observations have shown that some 70 percent of the world's fires occur in Africa alone. In what's a fairly average burning season, the visualization shows a huge outbreak of savanna fires during the dry season in Central Africa in July, August, and September of 2006, driven mainly by agricultural activities but also by the fact that the region experiences more lightning than anywhere else in the world. The tour shifts next to South America where a steady flickering of fire is visible across much of the Amazon rainforest with peaks of activity in September and November of 2009. Almost all of the fires in the Amazon are the direct result of human activity, including slash-and-burn agriculture, because the high moisture levels in the region prevent inhibit natural fires from occurring. It concludes in North America, a region where fires are comparatively rare. North American fires make up just 2 percent of the world's burned area each year. The fires that receive the most attention in the United States, the uncontrolled forest fires in the West, are less visible than the wave of agricultural fires prominent in the Southeast and along the Mississippi River Valley, but some of the large wildfires that struck Texas earlier this spring are visible.

    More information on the Fire Information for Resource Management (FIRMS) is available at http://maps.geog.umd.edu/firms/.

Edited features

  • 2012 and the Future of Fire
    2012.12.04
    The U.S. fire season in 2012 was by some measures a record-breaking season. NASA scientist Doug Morton and University of Maryland scientist Louis Giglio discuss the links between climate and wildfires and the likelihood of seeing more extreme fire events in the future. This page includes a short video discussing these topics, extended interview clips from Giglio and Morton, and visualizations of the 2012 fire season in North America.

    NASA satellites constantly monitor fire activity on Earth and 2012 was a big year for fire in North America. The following visualization represents a compilation of the active fires detected by the MODIS instrument on board the Terra and Aqua satellites from Jan. 1 through Oct. 31, 2012.

    Smaller agricultural fires in the southeast United States and Mexico appear to dominate the scene, but the big story of the year was large wildfires. Bright yellow on the map shows areas that are more intense and have a larger area that is actively burning, flaming and/or smoldering, including some of the major wildfires of the year. There's more on this video available, as well as more information on fires and climate. You can also see a short video exploring the 2012 fire season and fire projections for the future.

  • Fire Observations - As the World Turns
    2009.06.13
    From space, we can understand fires in ways that are impossible from the ground. 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. In this animation of fires around the globe in 2007, each red dot marks a new fire. From brush fires in Africa to forest fires in North America, satellites are locating every significant fire on Earth to within one kilometer. More information on the Fire Information for Resource Management (FIRMS) is available at http://maps.geog.umd.edu/firms/
  • A Look Back at a Decade of Fires
    2011.10.20
    For more than a decade, instruments on Terra and Aqua, two of NASA's flagship Earth-observing satellites, have scanned the surface of our planet for fires four times a day. The instruments, both Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers (MODIS), have revolutionized what scientists know about fire's role in land cover change, ecosystem processes, and the global carbon cycle by allowing researchers to map the characteristics and global distribution of fires in remarkable detail. The collection of videos below provides perspective on how global fires impact humans and our planet.