NASA snaps tens of millions of fires on Earth in decade-long study
NASA has released a series of new satellite images that show tens of millions of fires detected worldwide from space since 2002. The US space agency maintains a comprehensive research program using satellites, aircraft and ground resources to observe and analyze fires around the world. The research helps scientists understand how fire affects our environment on local, regional and global scales.
"What you see here is a very good representation of the satellite data scientists use to understand the global distribution of fires and to determine where and how fire distribution is responding to climate change and population growth," said Chris Justice of the University of Maryland, College Park, a scientist who leads NASA's effort to use MODIS data to study the world's fires.
One of the new visualizations takes viewers on a narrated global tour of fires detected between July 2002 and July 2011. The fire data is combined with satellite views of vegetation and snow cover to show how fires relate to seasonal changes. The Terra and Aqua satellites were launched in 1999 and 2002, respectively.
The tour begins by showing extensive grassland fires spreading across interior Australia and the eucalyptus forests in the northwestern and eastern part of the continent. The tour then shifts to Asia where large numbers of agricultural fires are visible first in China in June 2004, then across a huge swath of Europe and western Russia in August. It then moves across India and Southeast Asia, through the early part of 2005. The tour continues across Africa, South America, and concludes in North America.