Mon. Dec 4th, 2023
Tracking and Controlling Forest Fires with Space Technology

With the rise in climate change and the subsequent increase in heat waves, forest fires have become more frequent and intense during summers. To combat this challenge, the French space agency, CNES, has been providing assistance to firefighters by utilizing space technology.

For over two decades, CNES has been analyzing forest fires using satellite imagery. Satellite images are capable of providing detailed information regarding forest fire risk. They can indicate the level of vegetation stress and deforestation, making them essential for assessing fire risks. The International Charter Space and Major Disasters, as well as the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, offer assessment tools to monitor and evaluate the progression of fires.

When it comes to satellite technology, CNES expert Helene de Boissezon highlighted the significance of optical images. Data obtained from optical images, especially wavelengths in the middle infrared and thermal infrared, enables precise characterization of vegetation status. The use of radar-equipped satellites has also proven to be beneficial for monitoring forest fires. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images capture changes in the ground’s condition and geometry. For instance, SAR images can easily identify areas that have been completely burned, revealing a stark contrast from the previous presence of vegetation.

The collaboration between firefighters and CNES demonstrates how space technology can play a crucial role in tracking, tracing, and ultimately controlling forest fires. By providing accurate and real-time data, satellite imagery has become an invaluable tool in mitigating the devastating impact of these fires.

Note: Additional information about the impact of climate change and efforts to combat forest fires in France and Canada can be found in the original article.