Wildland fire — uncontrolled fire that occurs in an area of combustible vegetation — is an essential process that connects terrestrial systems to the atmosphere and climate. But its effects can also be disastrous in both the short and long-term.

During the event, there's poor air quality, loss of life and loss of property while after a fire areas are more prone to floods, debris flows, landslides and poor water quality. NASA Earth observations and models support research and data applications to improve decision-making before, during and after a fire.

For example, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Forest Service, NASA developed an enhanced fire detection product that’s now in operational use. It uses data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP satellite, which is available to the public worldwide.

The Forest Service and NASA work closely to ensure data are quickly available for regional planning, fire identification and model initialization. We make summarized satellite and fire data applicable to fire management communities through the Forest Service website.

NASA data can also be used to provide accurate air quality warnings in the event of a wildfire. With lidar data, we can accurately estimate the height of smoke, which travels faster the higher it rises.

Near Real-time Fire Emissions

This application from the NASA Disasters Mapping Portal animates the past week of GFED near real-time data. Carbon emissions are shown by default, but you can click the “layers” icon in the upper right to toggle the display of other emissions such as methane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Credit: NASA

View on the NASA Disasters Mapping Portal