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

Noticias

Logo of CGI. Image: CGI.

The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to improve its capabilities to track the effects of wildfires. For this purpose, ESA recently offered a contract to the IT and business consulting firm CGI in order to create a new mapping service for wildfires. This mapping service will blend Earth observation (EO) and Artificial intelligence (AI) data to improve wildfire risk management globally.

A wildfire refers to “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”. Wildfires can pose a risk to natural environments and human life in conditions of dry weather and strong winds. In this regard, EO data has the potential to provide important information on wildfires that can be used in all phases of the disaster management cycle. More information on wildfires... read more

Publishing date: 26/02/2021
Cover of the JRC Atlas of the Human Planet 2020 report. Image: Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission.

A new report outlines the impact of Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) data on various policy areas. The 2020 edition of the “Atlas of the Human Planet”, recently published and launched virtually by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission as a deliverable to the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Human Planet Initiative, explores the impact of GHSL data on various policy areas, including disaster risk management.

GHSL data refers to “global spatial information, evidence-based analytics and knowledge describing the human presence on the planet”. This data relies on spatial information from Landsat 8, Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2. It is mainly cost-free and... read more

Publishing date: 18/02/2021
Forest fires. Image: ESA

In recent years, the world witnessed many devastating wildfires with disastrous impacts on the environment as well as on its population. In the past satellite- and airplane-based radar instruments have been used to detect wildfires and observe their temporal progression and the damage caused. A new scientific project supported by the Earth Applied Sciences Disasters programme at NASA uses radar data for a new approach in order to decipher where and how well landscapes recover in the years after major fires. This information is essential for forest and fire managers to manage future risks.

Radar instruments are vital for tracking fire fronts and burn scars during and shortly after fire has ravaged a landscape. They are very helpful as they are able to observe by day or night and can see land through clouds and smoke. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) instruments, carried on the Sentinel-1 satellites, send out pulses of microwaves that bounce off the Earth’s surfaces. The... read more

Publishing date: 12/02/2021
The new adaptationcommunity.net logo. Image: adaptationcommunity.net.

A knowledge platform for adaptation action on climate change recently updated the information, layout and logo of their website. With this step, adaptationcommunity.net aims to improve the user experience of the online platform and consequently facilitate the access to a wide variety of resources on climate change adaptation action, including tools working with Earth observation data.

Adaptation action in the context of climate change refers to “adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. It refers to changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities... read more

Publishing date: 12/02/2021
The Anticipation Hub logo. Image: Anticipation Hub.

The Disasters programme unit at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently joined a newly launched online platform aimed at placing anticipatory action on the humanitarian agenda. NASA’s involvement in the Anticipation Hub and the subsequent incorporation of Earth observation (EO) tools, serves to improve the capabilities of anticipatory action globally and demonstrates the potential of utilizing satellite-driven data for anticipatory action in disaster management.

Anticipatory action in the humanitarian context describes disaster mitigation activities based on in-depth forecast information and risk analysis. This approach has gained traction amongst the humanitarian community in recent years as it is viewed as a more efficient and affordable alternative to... read more

Publishing date: 02/02/2021

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States Government (NASA) signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 17 December 2020 pledging cooperation in areas of science and technology to support the peaceful uses of outer space.

The MoU brings together NASA's wealth of open-source spacecraft data, tools, and expertise and UNOOSA's unique position as the only UN entity dedicated to outer space affairs, to expand global opportunities to leverage the benefits of space. The partners will design capacity-building programmes, particularly for institutions in countries that do not yet have or that are developing space capabilities, to help them access space.

Together, UNOOSA and NASA will develop ways to leverage the Artemis programme as part of UNOOSA's Access to Space 4 All Initiative, which offers opportunities for international researchers and institutions, especially in... read more

Publishing date: 11/01/2021

Data Source

Evento

SEDAC POPGRID Viewer. Image: NASA

Having reliable and timely population distribution data can make a life or death difference for individuals facing crises or living in conflict-ridden regions. These data are also essential for development decision-making and planning and for monitoring progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the international community. We need to know where people are located, what conditions they are facing, what infrastructure is available, and what basic services they can access. We also need to ensure that no one is left off the map in pursuit of meeting the SDGs. 

Gridded population data, which often use remote sensing inputs to improve the spatial allocation of population within a country, are vital for all these purposes. Together with the  growing variety of applications that require spatial population data, there is now a bewildering array of population grids, and users need to know which ones are most suitable for their applications.

... read more

Advisory Support

Mission dates: 22/07/2020 to 22/12/2020

Pages

Hazard group

Terms in the same hazard group

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.