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Global and Regional Vegetation Fire Monitoring from Space

Planning a Coordinated International Effort

edited by: F.J. Ahern & J.G. Goldammer & C.O. Justice

Price: € 70.00 / US $ 94.50

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Publication details: Book. 2001. x and 303 pages. Publication date: 2001-07-20. 81 figures, of which 42 in color, and 20 tables. Paperbound.

ISBN: 978-90-5103-140-9 (ISBN 10: 90-5103-140-8; SPB Academic Publishing)

Also available as ebook



Increasing conflagrations of forests and other lands throughout the world during the 1980s and 1990s have made fires in forest and other vegetation emerge as an important global concern. Both the number and severity of wildfires (accidental fires) and the application of fire for land-use change, seem to have increased dramatically compared to previous decades of the twentieth century. The adverse consequences of extensive wildfires cross national boundaries and have global impacts. Fire regimes are changing with climate variability and population dynamics. Satellite remote sensing technology has the potential to play an important role for monitoring fires and their consequences, as well as in operational fire management. In response to this need as well as to respond to other needs for more rapid progress in forest observation, in 1997 the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) initiated Global Observation of Forest Cover (GOFC) as an international pilot project to test the concepts of an Integrated Global Observing System. The GOFC program is currently part of the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS). GOFC was designed to bring together data providers and information users to make information products from satellite and in-situ observations of forests more readily available worldwide. Fire Monitoring and Mapping was formed as one of three basic components of GOFC. This book contains eighteen contributions authored by scientists who represent the most active international research and development institutions, aiming at coordinating and improving international efforts for user-oriented systems and products. These papers were initially presented at a GOFC Fire Workshop held at the Joint Research Centre, Ispra. The volume is a contribution of the GOFC Forest Fire Monitoring and Mapping Implementation Team to the Interagency Task Force Working Group Wildland Fire of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR).



The application of prescribed fire provides an important land management practice, used in many parts of the world. Increasing global population, changes in land-use practice, and increasing climate variability, result in changes in fire regimes. Wildfire has always been with us, but in the last decade, an increase in non-sustainable vegetation burning and wildfires have scarred the Earth in unprecedented numbers and size. Conflagrations throughout the world - in Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Canada, and the USA, to name but a few affected nations - have caused wildfire to emerge as an important global concern. Both the number and severity of fires, compared to previous decades of the 20th century, seem to have increased dramatically. The adverse consequences of extensive wildfires cross national boundaries and have a global impact. Such consequences include the loss of life and property, the loss of biodiversity, they contribute to the anthropogenic build up of greenhouse gas concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere, to widespread air pollution that affects the health of millions of people, and to increased flooding and landslides. Wildfire has been an increasingly important agent of planned and unplanned land-cover and land-use change. But, while effective in clearing land, the side-effects can be devastating. Secondary disasters such as erosion, surface water run-off, landslides, and extended flooding, have been observed in all continents as a consequence of vegetation destruction by non-sustainable fire application and escaping wildfires.

Some scientists fear that human beings are instigating a catastrophic feedback loop in which greenhouse gasses build up to cause a warmer, drier climate, which in turn causes more wildfires, accelerating the increase in greenhouse gasses. Satellite remote sensing technology has the potential to play an important role in monitoring fires and their consequences, as well as in operational fire management. Considering how long satellite data have been available, it is surprising that use of these data for vegetation fire monitoring and management has not progressed as rapidly as it could have. In 1997, in response to this need, as well as to other needs for more the rapid progress of forest observation, the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) initiated Global Observation of Forest Cover (GOFC) as a pilot project to bring together data providers and information users in order to coordinate and contribute to an international effort for making information products from satellite and in-situ observations of forests more readily available worldwide.
(See the GOFC website at www.gofc.org. for more information.)

During the 1998 design phase of GOFC, forest fire monitoring and mapping was identified as one of its three basic components, and a component where rapid progress could be made through more effective coordination of existing efforts. As a result, in 1999, a committee was formed to organize a workshop to develop the forest fire monitoring and mapping component of GOFC. To this end, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Ispra, Italy, hosted a workshop to bring the technology and user communities together in order to help chart the course for the implementation of this international initiative. A report of this November 1999 workshop was published in June 2000. (Forest Fire Monitoring and Mapping: A Component of Global Observation of Forest Cover, edited by Frank Ahern, Jean-Marie Grégoire and Christ Justice, Report of a Workshop held on November 3rd-5th, 1999, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission publication EUR) Conference participants prepared 18 articles, which reviewed user requirements, the technical state-of-the-art, and the international response to the need for greater integration of existing activities. The global importance of the wildfire issue made the workshop organizers realize that a more polished, more permanent, and more widely distributed book would provide a valuable resource to help increase the international effort being brought to address wildfires. The authors of most of the original review articles have therefore made an extra effort to condense and polish their articles, submit them to a journal-style, peer-review process, and work with the editors to produce this volume. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the authors for their substantial contribution of time and energy to making this volume possible. It is our sincere hope that readers will be motivated to join the efforts which are already under way to integrate satellite data sources into information products which provide vital information for wildfire management, regional and global research related to wildfire, and the formulation of policy at national and international levels. We were very encouraged by the positive international response to our call for cooperation. In 2000, following the workshop in Ispra, a GOFC Fire Implementation Team was formed with the international representation of data users and producers. GOFC has also become a permanent international entity in the form of a panel in the Global Terrestrial Observing System. Most importantly, scientists, resource managers, and policy makers are making greater efforts to cooperate at an international level with a view to improving the utility of, and access to, information derived from Earth observation technology for monitoring and managing wildfire. Some highlights are mentioned below:

- Based on the decision of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) the UN, under the auspices of the Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, established an Interagency Task Force Working Group on Wildland Fire under the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) in 2000. This group will provide the first global, cross-sectoral, and interdisciplinary platform during which UN agencies, other international bodies, NGOs, the academia, including representatives of the CEOS, will jointly be able to elaborate on commonly agreed strategies, programs and mechanisms for reducing the impact of wildland fire disasters on humanity and the environment.

- Global coverage by the World Fire Web, a network of satellite receiving and data processing facilities for the monitoring of fires and burned areas has been completed, with the exception of the northern part of South America.

- The CEOS Working Group on Information Systems and Services is working with GOFC to explore ways of improving the timely display of maps of fire occurrences. The Open GIS procedures are seen as an important development in this regard.

- The CEOS Sub-Working Group on Land Product Validation will be working with GOFC to determine the accuracy of fire products from different sensing systems.

- In 2000, the worst fire season in the USA for 50 years demonstrated that multi-source, remotely-sensed information and imagery are essential for wildland fire preparedness and risk assessment, suppression support, burned area recovery, and environmental effects. In addition to the information provided by the operational NOAA, GOES, and DMSP satellites, data from the advanced MODIS sensor on NASA's EOS Terra mission were made available in near real-time to support the fire-fighting effort.

- Earlier in 2000, in response to the fire emergency in Ethiopia, a multinational coalition of fire specialists based its decisions on information from the NOAA and DMSP sensors.

- The first MODIS instrument is providing new information on fires by means of spectral bands designed specifically for fire monitoring. By mid-2001, there will be two polar orbiting MODIS instruments making four observations each day, and monitoring active fires and burn scars.

- Coordinated national efforts in southern Europe are integrating data from sensors on the Meteosat, NOAA, and Landsat satellites to provide fire danger ratings, active fire monitoring, and post-season burned area mapping.

- The GOES Wildfire Automated Biomass Burning Algorithm has been implemented for the western hemisphere. Geostationary data provide frequent imaging throughout the day, and composite fire products are provided on the web in near real-time. On-going communication between NOAA, EUMETSAT, and the Japanese Meteorological Agency has led to the adoption of this algorithm for application with the European Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) and the Japanese Multi-functional Transport Satellite (MTSAT), which are scheduled for launch in 2002 and 2003, respectively.

- The delay in releasing DMSP night-time data for fires has been reduced from 72 to three hours, making it possible for fire managers to use these data as additional input for their planning process.

- The development of technology and satellite constellations needed for rapid response (10-30 minutes) to fires is proceeding through the BIRD, FOCUS, and FUEGO programs in Europe.

- The VIIRS instrument to be carried on the next generation of operational polar orbiting imagers (NPOESS) is designed to include a fire monitoring capability. A NPOESS preparatory mission, planned by NASA for launch in 2005, will include the VIIRS instrument.

All these efforts require serious commitment from persons with talent, skills, experience, and motivation to make ideals into reality. We hope that this volume will provide a comprehensive background for both new and experienced workers in the field, and will act as a guide to those efforts that will produce the greatest dividends. GOFC encourages a close working relationship between satellite data producers and data users from the global change, resource management, and policy-making communities, especially in the framework of the UN Interagency Task Force Working Group on Wildland Fire. We hope that this book will motivate the community into producing both the technical tools and the organizational structures needed to make a better future through the more effective monitoring and management of vegetation fires.

Frank Ahern
Johann G. Goldammer
Chris Justice

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


A review of the status of satellite fire monitoring and the requirements for global environmental change research
C.O. Justice and S. Korontzi

Satellite earth observation information requirements of the wildland fire management community
C.W. Dull and B.S. Lee

Towards the development of an informed global policy on vegetation fires: what role for remote sensing?
B.J. Stocks, J.G. Goldammer, P.G.H. Frost and D.R. Cahoon

Operational use of remote sensing for fire management: regional case studies
J.M.C. Pereira, S. Flasse, A. Hoffman, J.A.R. Pereira, F. González-Alonso, S. Trigg, M.J.P. Vasconcelos, S. Bartalev, T.J. Lynham, G. Korovin and B.S. Lee

Current state of synthesis initiatives in global vegetation fire monitoring
J.G. Goldammer

Forest fire monitoring and mapping for GOFC: current products and information networks based on NOAA-AVHRR, ERS-ATSR, and SPOT-VGT systems
J.-M. Grégoire, D.R. Cahoon, D. Stroppiana, Z. Li, S. Pinnock, H. Eva, O. Arino, J.M. Rosaz and I. Csiszar

Detection of fires at night using DMSP-OLS data
C.D. Elvidge, I. Nelson, V.R. Hobson, J. Safran and K.E. Baugh

An overview of diurnal active fire monitoring using a suite of international geostationary satellites
E.M. Prins, J. Schmetz, L.P. Flynn, D.W. Hillger and J.M. Feltz

Upcoming sensors for space-borne fire observation
D. Oertel, K. Briess, H.-P. Roeser, H. Jahn, B. Zhukov, F. Lanzl, P. Haschberger, J. Gonzalo, I. F. Tourné and G. Gutman

A review of AVHRR-based active fire detection algorithms: principles, limitations, and recommendations
Z. Li, Y.J. Kaufman, C. Ichoku, R. Fraser, A. Trishchenko, L. Giglio, J.-Z. Jin and X. Yu

Methods of mapping surfaces burned in vegetation fires
O. Arino, I. Piccolini, E. Kasischke, F. Siegert, E. Chuvieco, P. Martin, Z. Li, R. Fraser, H. Eva, D. Stroppiana, J. Pereira, J.M.N. Silva, D. Roy and P.M. Barbosa

NOAA archives of data from meteorological satellites useful for fire products
G. Gutman, C.D. Elvidge, I. Csiszar and P. Romanov

The fire component of global observation of forest cover: a plan of action
F.J. Ahern, A.S. Belward, C.D. Elvidge, J. Goldammer, J.-M. Grégoire, C.O. Justice, J.M.C. Pereira, E.M. Prins and B.J. Stocks

List of Acronyms



About the Editors

Frank Ahern recently retired from 26 years' service with the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing where he led the Forestland Application Development Group, as well as the ProRADAR radar applications development project in Latin America. From 1997 to 2000 he led the initial development of the international program Global Observation of Forest Cover (GOFC) and served as the first Executive Director of the GOFC Project Office. He now leads TerreVista Earth Imaging, a small business which produces maps, images, and other products for eco-tourists.

Johann G. Goldammer is head of the Fire Ecology and Biomass Burning Research Group of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, c/o Freiburg University, and the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC). He coordinates the Working Group Wildland Fire of the Interagency Task Force of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and the UN FAO/ECE Team of Specialists on Forest Fire. He serves as a member of the GOFC Fire Monitoring and Mapping Implementation Team.

Chris Justice is a Professor of Geography at the University of Maryland. He is the leader of the GOFC Fire Monitoring and Mapping Implementation Team. He is leader of the NASA MODIS Land Discipline Group and is responsible for the MODIS Fire Product and is undertaking research on remote sensing and global change aspects of fire. He is also Project Scientist for the NASA Land Cover and Land Use Change Program.

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