The summer fire season is well under way in Europe – countries all around the Mediterranean are experiencing record temperatures coupled with huge wildfires that have led to mass evacuations. In this enthralling new ESA documentary, explore how people on the frontline are using space to better monitor and fight the flames.
FIRE is the first episode of ESA’s new series centred around the elements and showcases how Earth observation has become crucial to those fighting climate change on the ground.
Fire and climate
As part of the documentary, ESA scientist Clement Albergel who explains the importance of both understanding the impact of fire on the climate and monitoring the long-term trend. Against a background of recent intense heatwaves in Europe, and a future increase in frequency and severity according to the IPCC, risk of wildfires is set to increase, Dr Albergel is leading ESA efforts to improve identification of long-term trends in the pattern of global wildfire using Earth observation satellites.
Satellites - providing the long-term view
With their global view, satellites provide a long-term view from which to monitor long-term fire regime across the planet, and in particular, detecting the burned areas that result from fire disturbance on land.
The ESA Climate Change Initiative fire project, led by a team of researchers from the University of Alcala, Spain, is working to improve the global satellite fire data record and improve the impact of European Earth observation missions such as the Copernicus Sentinel-2 and -3 missions.
Much of this research aims to improve the consistency and retrieval algorithms of global burned area products to meet GCOS Essential Climate Variable that will better characterise this important element of the climate. In doing so, the project is supporting early warning of change - by eventually advancing climate services delivered via the Coperncius Climate Change Service - and supporting improvement of how fire and fire emissions are represented in state-of-the-art climate models.
Global Burned Area products – Output of the Fire_cci project
The Fire_cci project is working to deliver improved global burned area products in two key formats:
- Pixel product, with a resolution of 250-300 metres, including the date of detection, the confidence level and the land cover corresponding to the burned pixel. Each dataset contains one month of information, and it is divided in 6 sub-continental GeoTIFF files.
- Grid product, with a resolution of 0.25 degrees, and the following information in each grid cell: sum of burned area, standard error, fraction of burnable area, fraction of observed area, and sum of burned area for each land cover class.
In addition the project is continuing to develop a complementary Small Fire Dataset (SFD) product, using Sentinel-2 information at 20-metre spatial resolution and also Sentinel-3, and covering Sub-Saharan Africa for the years 2016 and 2019. and has shown significant improvements in the ability to detect burned areas of current global products.
For more information about the Fire_cci project and its activities visit the team's project page.