Fire Potential

Fire potential depends on the amount of dead and live vegetation and moisture contents in each. The amount of dead and live vegetation is estimated from a high quality landcover map derived from (ideally) a high resolution sensor, such as the IRS, Landsat TM or SPOT multispectral scanner or from lower resolution sensor such as NOAA-AVHRR or NASA Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS). These satellites can be used to monitor changes in the vegetation vigor, which is correlated with the moisture of the live vegetation. The moisture in the dead vegetation is estimated from knowledge of local weather conditions. Thus, a baseline land cover map and immediate estimate of vegetation condition are needed.

The research project FIRE in global Resource and Environmental monitoring (FIRE) was initiated in 1994 by the Monitoring of Tropical Vegetation unit (MTV) of the Commission of the European Union Joint Research Centre in order to address such issues. A key objective of this initiative was the documentation of vegetation fire patterns for the entire globe and the analyses of such patterns in relation to land use/land cover dynamics in tropical and inter-tropical regions. Obviously, such vegetation fires represent only part of the overall biomass burning activity, which also includes the burning of domestic fuels, occurring at the surface of the Earth. Due to both the characteristics of the phenomenon and to the multiscale objective, the fire monitoring system under development in the MTV Unit relies on remote sensing techniques as the main source of information. This is the case since earth observation from space provides systematic and consistent measurements of a series of parameters related to fire and fire impacts, and, consequently, is an ideal medium for the study of vegetation fire. The AVHRR on the NOAA satellites is the main source of data for the studies done by the FIRE project. For the 5 km GAC (Global Area Coverage) data, historical archives exist that extend back to 1981 and consist of daily images covering the entire globe. More limited data sets, from the same AVHRR sensor but at 1 km resolution also exist at global, continental and regional level. A mobile AVHRR data receiving station is also used by the FIRE project.

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