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Copernicus Sentinel-5P advances Amazon real-time fire monitoring

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MAAP (Monitoring of the Amazon Project), a programme within the organisation Amazon Conservation, focuses on real-time monitoring of deforestation and fires. Copernicus Sentinel-5P data are a game changer in their work to monitor Amazon fires.

MAAP (Monitoring of the Amazon Project), a programme within the organisation Amazon Conservation, focuses on real-time monitoring of deforestation and fires. Copernicus Sentinel-5P data are a game changer in their work to monitor Amazon fires.

Launched in 2015, MAAP (Monitoring of the Amazon Project) is a key programme within Amazon Conservation, a Washington DC-based organisation with sister organisations in Peru and Bolivia (referred to collectively as the Amazon Conservation Alliance).

MAAP’s target has always been advancing the dynamic new field of real-time monitoring. For the first four years, it focused on real-time deforestation monitoring, and in 2019 it also expanded to real-time fire monitoring.

This extension to real-time fire monitoring was made possible by their innovative new use of Copernicus Sentinel-5P imagery. Fire monitoring can be done with satellite-based heat alerts, which has the caveat of detecting thousands of points but not distinguishing between small (routine) and major fires.

The Sentinel-5P mission of the European Union's Copernicus Programme, on the other hand, detects aerosol emissions within the smoke.

The ability to identify strong aerosol emissions from fires has been a key advance from Copernicus Sentinel-5P for the team’s work. In fact, the use of the data were such a breakthrough that, together with their Peruvian sister organisation (ACCA), they developed a freely available app focused on the visualisation of the daily Copernicus Sentinel-5P data.

VIIRS map Sentinel-5P map

MAAP's experts piloted the app during the notorious Amazon fire season of 2019, making some adjustments during the off season, and then really demonstrated its power during the just as intense Amazon fire season of 2020.

In May 2020, MAAP launched the new and improved version of the app, just in time for the beginning of the 2020 fire season.

When fires burn, they emit gases and aerosols. Copernicus Sentinel-5P detects emitted trace gas concentrations like nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and aerosol information. The app users combine data from the atmosphere (aerosol) with data from the ground (temperature), to pinpoint the sources of fires. Since the data update daily, real-time monitoring is indeed possible (see MAAP #118).

Using the app, over the last six months the MAAP experts were able to provide unprecedented real-time coverage of the 2020 fire season. They documented many fires in the Brazilian, Bolivian and Peruvian Amazon, with the Copernicus Sentinel-5P data (see MAAP #129 for recap).

Sentinel-2 image

Moreover, combined with Copernicus Sentinel-2 optical imagery, they were able to visualise the fires and determine their type (for example, whether they were burning fields or intact forest).

Dr Matt Finer, Senior Research Specialist at Amazon Conservation, affirms, "The aerosol information data from Copernicus Sentinel-5P were a game changer for our work monitoring Amazon fires.

"We now have the unprecedented ability to pinpoint where fires are happening, in real-time. In 2020, we demonstrated the power of the data, and in 2021 our goal is to get the data in the hands of authorities throughout the region," concluded Dr Finer.

Copernicus Sentinel-5P is the result of close collaboration between ESA, the European Commission, the Netherlands Space Office, industry, data users and scientists. The mission consists of one satellite carrying the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI), which was co-funded by ESA and The Netherlands.

The main objective of the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission is to perform atmospheric measurements with high spatio-temporal resolution, to be used for air quality, ozone & UV radiation, and climate monitoring & forecasting.

The satellite was successfully launched on 13 October 2017, from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in Russia.

The TROPOMI instrument is state-of-the-art technology that provides observations with performance that cannot be met by current instruments in space. Performance of current in-orbit instruments are surpassed in terms of sensitivity, spectral resolution, spatial resolution and temporal resolution.

About the Copernicus Sentinels

The Copernicus Sentinels are a fleet of dedicated EU-owned satellites, designed to deliver the wealth of data and imagery that are central to the European Union's Copernicus environmental programme.

The European Commission leads and coordinates this programme, to improve the management of the environment, safeguarding lives every day. ESA is in charge of the space component, responsible for developing the family of Copernicus Sentinel satellites on behalf of the European Union and ensuring the flow of data for the Copernicus services, while the operations of the Copernicus Sentinels have been entrusted to ESA and EUMETSAT.

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