Canada experienced record-breaking wildfires this year with over 18 million hectares burned, equivalent to the size of North Dakota. This is a significant increase compared to the nation’s annual average of 2.5 million hectares. Although the number of fires is not unusual, with 6,595 reported as of October, many of them escalated into “megafires.”
Using newly released NASA satellite imagery, the expansion of some of Canada’s largest wildfires can be observed. One animation shows the second-largest wildfire of the year, which burned 1,224,938 hectares or 4,730 square miles. By late July, this fire was fully contained.
Another animation created by NASA showcases the spread of four wildfires near the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan. The western-most fire, near Fort Nelson, halted its spread in August after burning 802,575 hectares. However, it was reignited by winds in September and October, eventually spreading to 1,294,096 hectares and becoming the largest wildfire in the state as of November 4th. The animation provides detailed visualization of the fire’s initial expansion.
Scientists utilized the new “Fire Events Data Suite” (FEDS), which relies on data from a group of satellites known as VIIRS, to track these wildfires. FEDS stands out because it effectively monitors the daily incremental spread of fires at 12-hour intervals, enabling near real-time monitoring and generating more detailed views of fire progression.
This new system is expected to assist fire crews in pinpointing actively burning areas within a fire’s perimeter and identifying residual heat that could pose a hazard to wildland firefighters. With the ability to track fire progression more accurately, firefighters will have valuable information to aid in managing these devastating wildfires.