Monitoring Wildfires using Satellite Data

In recent years, wildfires have raged across the world from California to the Amazonian jungle and Australia. Millions of acres of forest have already been destroyed in a relatively short time, and research shows that the situation can only worsen. The reason is that human-induced climate change increases the probability of forest fires.

The problem of forest fires is especially acute, as they have many dire environmental consequences. In addition to air pollution and reduced air quality, pollution of water bodies and groundwater, forest fires also cause soil erosion and soil microorganisms death. Besides, fires are destroying ecological systems and reducing biodiversity. These are far from all the issues associated with forest fires. The negative impact of forest fires on human life and the environment is enormous. That’s why forestry monitor is crucial if we want to combat wildfires effectively and reduce damage.

Satellite data makes it possible to monitor and manage forest fires. Moreover, the information received contributes to the effective elimination of negative consequences, including economic and social consequences, people’s death, and the impact on their health. Current forest fire mapping and forecasting are critical benefits of satellite imagery. The data obtained is also used to map burned areas, soil erosion, damage assessment, and restoration. In this way, satellite data enables the entire cycle of disaster management to be carried out. It includes forest fire preparedness and response, reconstruction, and mitigation.

Forest fire preparedness

Increased alertness is critical to fighting fires on time, but it is necessary to be aware of the dangers of future fires for this to be possible. It enables services to take preventive measures and get more time to extinguish a fire. Preparedness also provides an opportunity to learn how to react to possible situations and draw up a more detailed plan of action.

An early warning system improves preparedness and control of forest fires. Information from satellites is beneficial in this case. The value of this information lies in obtaining fire hazard ratings based on fuel, land cover, and drought data. Thus, a warning of a potential fire can be received in 4–6 hours. Satellites also provide information on temperature, relative humidity, wind, and precipitation. It can be used to create indices indicating dryness, fuel waste, and potential spread.

Remote sensing data also provides invaluable assistance in modeling forest fires. Satellite data is used as input to create these models. The list of input data includes information on precipitation, relative humidity, and temperature at a certain point. The information provided over time and change detection can be used to calibrate the forest fire model.

This procedure is carried out by comparing the model’s results with the results of observing the planet. The combination of models and satellite data provide forecasting tools. They help to comply with all preparedness measures, as well as mitigate the consequences of fires.

Forest fire response

Fire services use satellites that are equipped with special devices that can detect or see heat. The data is filtered by algorithms so that hot spot detectors do not report all sources of infrared radiation. Otherwise, the fire departments would receive signals about the forest fires and about every barbecue you decided to make on the weekend.

So, fires are detected thanks to thermal infrared bands on satellite platforms. The system extracts potential hotspots from the platform range and detects thermal differences per pixel. The fire is likely to be located where the pixel shows a higher temperature reading than all surrounding it. The fire information system registers the detected fires and reports the fires. The system also stores latitude, longitude, date data, and other satellite information as additional information. In addition, a hazard class will be assigned based on the information received.

It is possible to track not only hotbeds of fire but also various patterns, including scars from burns, the composition and condition of vegetation, and smoke emissions. With this information, experts can predict fire behavior, intensity, fuel consumption, and emissions. It also contributes to an accurate and quick response.

Satellite imagery also makes it possible to obtain data on burned-out areas. Composition in artificial colors, a combination of near-infrared, red, and green ranges, and a digital elevation model and subsequent classification of the land cover is one of the mapping methods. The program distinguishes between burnt-out areas and forms them on the map on which they are highlighted. The map is needed to assess the damage and assist in recovery operations. The severity of a burn can also be identified using the NBR index, which uses near-infrared and short wavelengths. Here you can find the NBR formula.

Using a combination of several technologies with satellite data is also effective for wildfire monitoring and control. Fire behavior can be challenging to predict, but big data helps. Experts are using AI to gain more insight. Predictive analytics are also used to assess the possibility of a fire. In this case, there is a chance to contain the forest fire and prevent it from developing. Simulating a fire can also alert people in advance to the possible direction of its spread.


Satellite imagery data is a significant contributor to forest fire fighting. These technologies not only contribute to improved preparedness for fires but also aid in the response. Combined with other technologies, including artificial intelligence, satellite data makes it possible to predict where a fire will start, detect the source of fire in time and minimize damage. With the help of satellite data, an entire cycle of operations related to the control and fight against forest fires is carried out.

The technologies that experts use to track and fight fires are constantly improving. The combination of all these evolving technologies allows them to gain a complete picture of the situation in the event of large-scale fires. In the future, these innovations can help find and contain fires faster, thereby saving the lives of large numbers of people, animals in forests and reducing the impact on the environment.


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