Tracking the Spread of the Caldor and Dixie Fires
Narration: Kathleen Gaeta and Douglas Morton
You're looking at the Caldor fire, which broke out just south of Grizzly Flats, California and burned from August 15 to October 6, 2021. With upwards of two dozen Earth-observing satellites, detecting and tracking fires is an important part of NASA's purview. But this visualization gives us a detailed look at the past. NASA's latest generation of fire-tracking satellites observes the entire planet twice per day. Scientists use the thermal infrared images from each overpass to identify the active fire front as well as track the behavior of large fires.
It's really important for us to be able to track fires as they change over time, because the rate of spread, the intensity, and the total area that burns all contribute to the impact from fires on ecosystems, communities, air quality and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
Here we can see the Dixie fire, located in Northern California. Better geolocation also allow scientists and fire managers to be more confident about where the fire is actually located on the ground.
Overall, the goal for our team is to be able to deliver active fire detection and tracking information in a way that helps link NASA satellite capabilities with the needs of stakeholders on the ground. These stakeholders include fire managers who track and respond to fires in real time, and air quality managers responsible for forecasting and reporting how fire emissions create unhealthy air quality for communities downwind from large fire events. These data also help support new science. By tracking the fire every 12 hours, we can better pinpoint the conditions under which dangerous fires could occur and better anticipate the likely impact on ecosystems from hotter faster and longer fires in a warming world