Active Fire Detection

Active fires are located on the basis of the so-called thermal anomalies produced by them. The algorithms compare the temperature of a potential fire with the temperature of the land cover around it; if the difference in temperature is above a given threshold, the potential fire is confirmed as an active fire or "hot spot." 

EFFIS uses the active fire detection provided by the NASA FIRMS (Fire Information for Resource Management System).  

MODIS Active fires

The MODIS sensor, on board of the TERRA and ACQUA satellites, identifies areas on the ground that distinctly hotter than their surroundings and flags them as active fires. The difference in temperature between the areas that are actively burning with respect to neighbor areas allows the identification and mapping of active fires. The spatial resolution of the active fire detection pixel from MODIS is 1 km.

VIIRS Active fires

The VIIRS (Visisble Infrared Imaging Radiomer Suite) on board fothe NASA/NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Parnershp (SNPP) uses similar algorithms to those used by MODIS to detect active fires. The VIIRS active fire products complements the MODIS active fire detection and provides an improved spatial resolution, as compared to MODIS. The spatial resolution of the active fire detection pixel for VIIRS is 375 m. Additionally, VIIRS is able to detect smaller fires and can help delinate perimeters of ongoing large fires.

Fire News

Another source for identification of active fires is built through firenews: the news items are selected from a large set of RSS feeds published by various forest fires related sites, and from news feeds filtered out with appropriate keywords. Selected feed's items are then geolocated and published at the EFFIS web site, in the FireNews section.

The mapping of active fires is performed to provide a synoptic view of current fires in Europe and as a means to help the subsequent mapping of burnt fire perimeters. Information on active fires is normally updated 6 times daily and made available in EFFIS within 2-3 hours of the acquisition of the MODIS/VIIRS images.

When interpreting the hotspots displayed in the , the following must be considered:

  • Hotspot location on the map is only accurate within the spatial accuracy of the sensor
  • Some fires may be small or obscured by smoke or cloud and remain undetected
  • The satellites also detect other heat sources (not all hotspots are fires)

To minimize false alarms and filter out active fires not qualified as wildfires (e.g. agricultural burnings), the system only displays a filtered subset of the hotspots detected by FIRMS. To this end a knowledge based algorithm is applied that takes into account the extent of surrounding land cover categories, the distance to urban areas and artificial surfaces, the confidence level of the hotspot.

With the identify feature tool, key information attached to each active fire is provided such as geographic coordinates, administrative district (commune and province) and the main land cover category affected.

Mission

As the science and knowledge service of the European Commission, the Joint Research Centre's mission is to support EU policies with independent evidence throughout the whole policy cycle.