With climate change leading to more frequent and intense heat waves, forest fires have become a common occurrence during the summer season. To combat this challenge, the French space agency CNES has been aiding firefighters by utilizing satellite technology to track, trace, and control forest fires.
For over two decades, satellite images have been used to analyze and assess forest fire risks. These images provide valuable information on vegetation stress levels and deforestation, enabling organizations like the International Charter Space and Major Disasters or Copernicus Emergency Management Service to evaluate the extent of fire risks. Additionally, satellite technology offers a variety of data, with optical images being the most commonly used. By utilizing specific wavelengths in the middle infrared and thermal infrared range, the status of vegetation can be accurately characterized.
Satellites equipped with radar capabilities are also utilized in observing forest fires. Radar imaging provides a unique perspective by highlighting changes in ground conditions. For example, SAR (synthetic aperture radar) images can easily identify areas that were previously covered with vegetation but have now been completely burned, leaving behind only tree trunks and bare soil.
The assistance provided by satellite technology is invaluable in monitoring and assessing the progression of forest fires. By combining the data obtained from satellite images and radar observations, firefighters and emergency response teams are better equipped to combat and control these devastating natural disasters.
As climate change continues to exacerbate the threat of forest fires, utilizing space technology will be increasingly crucial in mitigating the impact of these destructive events and protecting both lives and ecosystems.