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

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

Official Logo of the Algerian Space Agency. Image: ASAL.

In recent years, the frequency and severity of natural hazards has increased dramatically. This development has escalated the risk of disasters and their devastating impact on the environment and communities around the world. Earth observation (EO) data has the potential to mitigate the risks of disasters and support all phases of the disaster management cycle. The international community has created various mechanisms to facilitate the use of EO data for disaster management, such as the International Charter Space and Major Disasters. The Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) has provided EO data to the International Charter for almost two decades.

The International Charter refers to a consortium of space agencies, national and regional disaster monitoring organizations that utilize EO data for... read more

Publishing date: 13/04/2021
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
Fires in the Amazon as seen from Space. Image: ESA/NASA–L. Parmitano.

Increasing in frequency and severity, wildfires have had a devastating impact in several areas around the world in recent years. The effects of wildfires pose a particular risk to the environment and communities in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. In order to mitigate the effects of wildfires and support wildfire risk management in the region, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission (EC) recently launched country profiles under the Global Wildfire Information System (GWIS).

A wildfire refers to “an unplanned, unwanted wild land fire”. Wildfires are both caused by man-made activity (slash/burn land clearing) and natural events (lightning or extreme drought). The likelihood of a wildfire increases dramatically in the dry season and during high... read more

Publishing date: 30/03/2021
Forest fires in the Amazon. Image: NASA Earth Observatory.

Recent advances in the implementation of open data policies such as those that facilitate access to satellite data and products of the Copernicus programme and the incorporation of cloud-based processing platforms such as Google Earth Engine are facilitating the use of Earth Observation to address challenges posed by natural hazards. In addition, complementary efforts by international networks and space agencies are facilitating access to products such as digital elevation models, archived and up-to-date data on indicators developed by the space community that are paving the way for improved disaster risk management efforts. 

Between 2 February and 12 March 2021, the Latin American Network on Remote Sensing of Forest Fires (RedLaTIF)the Mario Gulich Institute on High Level Studies on Outer SpaceArgentina’s National Agricultural Technology... read more

Publishing date: 15/03/2021

Evento

UN Sustainable Development Goals. Image: European Commission.

EUROGEO 2021, the annual meeting and conference of the European Association of Geography will be held online on 22 and 23 April 2020. These two days will be dedicated to the contribution that the community of geographers can bring to global challenges by sharing knowledge about the important United Nations aim – the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In 2015, the United Nations approved these objectives, covering all possible social, economic and natural aspects, both in a global and local space. Most of them are related to geography and seek to promote a multidimensional model of development that can guarantee sustainability. The  identified priority is zero hunger, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, with a conciliatory... read more

Forest Fires in Russia. Image: ESA.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is organising an Advanced Training Course on Land Remote Sensing with the focus on Earth Observation and Artificial Intelligence for Forestry. This course is dedicated to training the next generation of Earth Observation (EO) scientists and experts working in forestry domain to exploit data from EO missions (e.g. the Copernicus Sentinels) and use Artificial Intelligence (AI) for science and applications development. The course is part of ESA’s EO Science for Society – Scientific Exploitation element of EOEP-5 (the fifth cycle of ESA’s Earth Observation Envelope Programme).

Training Format

The 5-day course will be held from 20 to 24 September 2021 as a hybrid event. If allowed to travel, lecturers and participants will be encouraged to attend the course at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Participants who cannot travel, due to the Covid regulations, can attend online.

... read more
Fires in Southern California. Image: Nasa Earth Observatory.

Fires are a growing concern, especially in regions with longer fire seasons, expanded wildland/urban interfaces, and severe and frequent droughts. Anthropogenic fires are commonly used to clear grassland and agricultural land prior to the planting season, and forests are often cleared using fires so the land can be repurposed for other uses. Whether naturally-occurring or anthropogenic, fires produce a significant change in the structure and reflectance of vegetation and soil properties and atmospheric chemistry. Remote sensing can be used to monitor pre-, during-, and post-fire conditions; including weather and climate conditions, fuel characterization, fire risk, smoke detection, monitoring, and forecasting, fire behavior, and the post-fire landscape. This 6-part, intermediate training will provide lectures and case studies focused on the use of Earth observations for operational fire monitoring: pre-, during-, and post-event.

Course Format

The... read more

Banner for POLINSAR 2021. Image: ESA.

The European Space Agency is organising the 10th International Workshop on Science and Applications of SAR Polarimetry and Polarimetric Interferometry, POLINSAR 2021.

Date(s)

The workshop will take place online from 26 to 30 April 2021.

Objectives

  • Provide a forum for scientific exchange 
  • Present the latest exploitation results from full-pol airborne and spaceborne systems and assess the state-of-the-art
  • Review retrieved bio-geophysical parameters and their accuracy
  • Make recommendations for algorithm development and new products
  • Support the preparation for ESA and Third Parties full-pol missions exploitation (BIOMASS, NOVASAR-S, RCM, SAOCOM, TerraSAR-L etc.)
  • Present innovative polarimetric applications and ideas for future polarimetric mission concepts Report on the status of POLinSAR 2019 recommendations

Sessions

Banner for the Planet Labs/Copernicus EMS Virtual Panel. Image: Planet Labs/Copernicus EMS.

The role of the Earth Observation industry in emergency situations and crisis response has significantly grown in recent years. Climate change brought forest fires, floods and other emergency states that have put Earth Observation and its data to the forefront. Data provided by the Earth Observation industry provides insights that allow emergency services to put their action plan in place appropriately and act timely. During this panel we will talk about Earth Observation data's role in emergency prevention, response and recovery mapping in the context of Copernicus Emergency Management Services and other emergency services.

Panelists:

  • Jens Danzeglocke, Space Administration & Earth Observation, German Aerospace Center (DLR)
  • Franck Ranera, Strategic Partner Development Manager, Serco
  • Philippe Campenon, Government Sales, Planet Labs
  • Moderator: Annett Wania, Innovation Project Manager, Planet Labs

The event will take... read more

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