Forecasting fire: New model to detect the formation and spread of fires

Predicting the intensity of fires.


NASA scientists recently developed a model that investigates different climate factors that prompt the development and spread of fires. The Global Fire Weather Database (GFWED) represents nearby winds, temperatures, and humidity while likewise being the first fire forecast model to incorporate satellite-based precipitation estimations.

Foreseeing the force of flames is vital on the grounds that smoke can influence air quality and increment the measure of greenhouse gases in the climate. The model compiles and examines different informational indexes and creates a rating that demonstrates how likely and intense fire may move toward becoming in a specific zone.

It is a similar sort of rating that numerous firefighting organizations use in their day–to–day operations. Historical information is accessible to comprehend the climate conditions under which fires have happened before and near–real-time information is accessible to check current fire risk.

Robert Field, the creator of GFWED and a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said, “Rather than look at the individual weather components, we look at their comprehensive effect. It’s not just one factor that causes a fire to start or spread.”

The animation above shows GFWED’s calculated fire danger worldwide from 2015 to 2017. The model compiles and analyzes various data sets and produces a rating that indicates how likely and intense fire might become in a particular area. It is the same type of rating that many firefighting agencies use in their day–to–day operations. Historical data are available to understand the weather conditions under which fires have occurred in the past, and near–real–time data are available to gauge current fire danger.

“For instance, if a region has not received normal precipitation for weeks or months, the vegetation might be drier and more prone to catching fire. Then if it gets windy, a fire could spread more quickly.”

“Across much of the world, tracking fires and smoke using NASA satellite data is the only way to get a consistent picture of fire activity, and our fire weather data helps us to understand the causes. That will help us to understand how fire activity might change and allows us to think ahead for different climate scenarios.”

GFWED consolidates meteorological information from a few sources. Temperature, relative humidity, and wind speeds originate from NASA’s MERRA2 dataset of the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO). Precipitation information originates from ground-based rain gauges and from the Integrated Multi-Satellite Retrievals (IMERG), a result of the Global Precipitation Measurement mission.

Utilizing the GMAO weather forecasts, GFWED incorporates experimental 8-day global fire risk forecasts.

Scientists noted that the model has been especially helpful in Indonesia, which tends to have an intense fire season during El Niño years. A field has been working with the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to improve that country’s fire danger maps.


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