Satellite Remote Sensing Impact

The work of the Wildfire Research Team with regards to fire radiative power (FRP), and the algorithms and data products resulting from it, have had major instrumental impacts on European capacity to map, quantify and monitor global wildfires and their effects.  This includes the development of the first FRP Product developed from a geostationary satellite, in this case the European Meteosat Second Generation.  From these data, wildfire location and their rates of fuel consumption across Africa and Europe can be updated every 15 minutes.  A link to the Google Earth version of the product can be found here, and the data are used for a variety of operational services as well as science applications, for example to forewarn of times when wildfires are likely to move close to power lines in parts of Africa such that the line can be temporarily turned off to prevent damaging ‘flashovers’ (sparking events).  These data are also being ingested into some versions of the models run by the European Copernicus Atmospheric Service, a pre-operational Service which provides scientists, policy makers and the public data records on global atmospheric composition for recent years, data for monitoring present conditions, and forecasts of the distribution of key atmospheric constituents for a few days ahead.  King’s are a member of the international team developing the Fire Emissions part of the Service, which is led by Johannes Kaiser.  The satellite FRP data are used to deliver estimates of global smoke emissions to the atmosphere, based on the relationship between FRP and fuel consumption rate.  You can see examples of Service outputs below, focusing on a strong period of burning in north America where the smoke emissions made their way to Northern Europe. Here we are showing carbon monoxide, but the modelling also takes into account dozens of different chemical species.  More details can be found on the Copernicus Services New Pages related to this particular event.  These types of data are useful for a wide range of purposes, including environmental treaty verification and air quality early warning applications. The full and complete Copernicus Atmospheric Service is expected to become properly operational in 2015.

We have also been involved in design decisions with regard to a number of European remote sensing satellite instruments, most recently EUMETSAT’s Meteosat Third Generation and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Sentinel-3 Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR).  Both these missions will have dedicated “fire” measurement channels to provide optimised data for delivering information on wildfire locations and FRP, from which fuel consumption and smoke emission rates will be calculated, for example for inclusion in the Copernicus Atmospheric Service described above.

The picture at left shows the ESA Sentinel-3 carrying the SLSTR. Light from Earth enters SLSTR through the two curved apertures seen on the underside of the spacecraft. Click the picture to see a video provided by ESA showing Sentinel-3 as it orbits the Earth. Using modelling of active fire observations and data from the existing MODIS instruments onboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, we were able to help ESA determine the most appropriate dynamic range for the SLSTR ‘fire channels’.  The first of four Sentinel-3 satellites are expected to launch in 2015, just in time to deliver active fire data when the Copernicus Atmospheric Service becomes fully operational.