Landsat’s Critical Role in Managing Forest Fires
Worldwide, fire plays a critical role in maintaining healthy forests, but fire can also be damaging. Homes are destroyed and the effects on air quality can be felt for miles. Forest fires are occurring more often and with greater intensity than in years past, and Landsat plays a critical role in understanding the impact. Landsat data enables land managers and scientists to assess the severity and extent of large fires as they plan recovery efforts; to improve safety and prevent damage to life, property and natural resources; to estimate how much pollution burning releases into the air; and to monitor the post-fire recovery of burned areas. Landsat satellites have been collecting information about forest fires since the 1970s. Landsat plays an important role in assessing the impact of fires on forest ecosystems and human society. Landsat satellites document the location and extent of burned areas, how severely fires burn, and the subsequent regrowth of the land after a forest fire. All this information helps land managers better manage our forests and other natural resources in the context of fire.
While the 138,000-acre Silver Fire still smoldered, forest restoration specialists were on the job. They analyzed maps created using Landsat satellite data to determine where the burn destroyed vegetation and exposed soil—and where to focus emergency restoration efforts.
The Black Forest wildfire this June was one of the most destructive in Colorado history, in terms of homes lost. It started close to houses and quickly spread through the ponderosa pine canopies on the rolling hills near Colorado Springs. The wildfire destroyed 500 homes in the first 48 hours and killed two people.
In June, air pollution over Singapore and Malaysia spiked as forests in neighboring Sumatra (Indonesia) burned. Using NASA’s daily fire alerts and official national maps, the fires were located in the vicinity of oil palm and acacia tree plantations. However, the coarse resolution of the fire alerts coupled with outdated national maps, made it hard to establish culpability.
Images from Landsat satellites provided free to the public by the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey were the starting points for “a new breakthrough” reported today by Time and announced
Scientists using NASA satellite data and climate models have projected drier conditions likely will cause increased fire activity across the United States in coming decades. Other findings about U.S. wildfires,