Minimize Fire Location and Fire Radiative Power

The significance of large scale fire activity in various parts of the Earth system has been featured by Bowman et al [3]. By destroying vast amounts of vegetation, large scale fire activity acts as a widespread change agent. These changes can also affect land surface properties or land cover types, and are also associated with a release of large amounts of trace gases and aerosols. As a consequence, worldwide grasslands, forests and peatland fires greatly impact large-scale ecosystem patterns and processes, carbon storage, atmospheric composition and climate [4].

Rises in carbon emissions from fires are substantial, for example 2.0-3.2 Pg C year-1 in 1997-2004 [6] compared to ~7.2 Pg C year-1 in 2000-2005 from fossil fuel combustion [1]. On average, it is estimated that approximately 30% of global total CO emissions, 10% of methane emissions, 38% of tropospheric ozone and over 86% of black carbon are produced by fires [4]. Changes of weather and climate (inter-annual climate variability and long-term climate change) have an effect on a vegetation fire's frequency, size, intensity and severity. Noticed variations in inter-annual atmospheric greenhouse gas growth rates are likely linked to year-to-year variations in global fire activity (for instance, the two thirds increase of CO2 observed between 1997 and 2001 [6]).

A potential response to climate changes seems to be the increasing extent of biomass burning activity in certain parts of the world [5] [7]. The unpredictable nature of fire and this inter-annual variability makes SLSTR data important for research, through detecting and quantifying actively burning fires through their emitted radiation signals [2].

In order to support both Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (Copernicus) operational services and scientific applications, fire detection and fire radiative power have been included in the SLSTR land product. SLSTR measurements from near-nadir scan are inputs for the fire product algorithm.

[1] Alley, et al. (2007). Fourth assessment report of the IPCC. The physical science basis, Working Group I report.

[2] Bond, W. J., & van Wilgen, B. W. (1996). Fire and plants. London, UK: Chapman and Hall.

[3] Bowman, D. M., Balch, J. K., Artaxo, P., Bond, W. J., Carlson, J. M., Cochrane, M. A., et al. (2009). Fire in the earth system. Science, 324, 481-484.

[4] Lavorel, S., Flannigan, M., Lambin, E., & Scholes, M. (2007). Vulnerability of land systems to fire: Interactions among humans, climate, the atmosphere, and ecosystems. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 12, 33-53.

[5] Running, S. (2006). Is global warming causing more, larger wildfires? Science, 313, 927, doi:10.1126/science.1130370.

[6] Van der Werf, G. R., Randerson, J. T., Giglio, L., Collatz, G. J., & Kasibhatla, P. S. (2006) Inter-annual variability in global biomass burning emission from 1997 to 2004. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 6, 3423-3441.

[7] Westerling, A. L., Hidalgo, H. G., Cayan, D. R., & Swetnam, T. W. (2006). Warming and earlier spring increase Western U.S. forest wildfire activity. Science, 313, 940-943, doi:10.1126/science.1128834.

Figure 1: RGB image of forest fires. The image was obtained from ATSR-2's nadir view, during a day-time pass of the northwest American states of Idaho and Montana.
In this representation there is a clear distinction between the cloud (white) and the smoke from the fires (blue), whilst forested areas appear green.

For further information about land applications and services available, see: Copernicus website.