A new study from Florida State University researchers indicates that common satellite imaging technologies have vastly underestimated the number of fires in Florida.
Their report, published in collaboration with researchers from the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, challenges well-established beliefs about the nature and frequency of fire in the Sunshine State. While there were more fires than expected, researchers said, strategically prescribed burns throughout the state are proving an effective force against the ravages of wildfire. The paper appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
For scientists studying fire, sophisticated satellites whizzing far above the Earth’s surface have long represented the best tool for monitoring wildfires and prescribed burns — carefully controlled and generally small fires intended to reduce the risk of unmanageable wildfires.
But FSU researchers suggest that fire experts themselves have been getting burned by faulty data, and that broadly accepted estimates of fire area and fire-based air pollutants might be flawed.
“There are well-known challenges in detecting fires from satellites,” said lead investigator Holly Nowell, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science.
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