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ESA releases long-term dataset to analyse global fire trends

Press Release 21 Jan - 12:33 SAST

ESA releases long-term dataset to analyse global fire trends

Press Release 21 Jan - 12:33 SAST

Information from ESA

A team of scientists working as part of the European Space Agency’s Climate Change Initiative is using satellite observations to gain a global view of land burned by fire. Used alongside land-cover information (e.g. savannah or forests), maps of burned area derived from satellite data help improve fire-emission inventories to quantify the impact of fires on air quality, climate and its critical component, the global carbon cycle.

The current focus of the team is to merge data from Copernicus Sentinel-3’s Ocean and Land Colour Instrument and its Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer into their existing global burned area product, FireCCI51 (2001–19). Using Sentinel-3 allows the time series to continue to be extended in time while improving accuracy, which, in turn, better supports scientists modelling the climate, vegetation and the atmosphere.

A key demand of the climate modelling community is the production of a burned area time series that exceeds 30 years. The team has addressed this by releasing a multidecade time series, called FireCCILT11, using historic satellite observations from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer on NOAA’s series of Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites. This is the first attempt to generate a global burned area dataset using this sensor and provides a 36-year time series, from 1982 to 2018 – almost double the time covered by MODIS-based products.

The FireCCILT11 is offered as grid and pixel products, and the pixel data have a 0.05° resolution, which approximates to a relatively coarse 5 km. While including higher uncertainties than products based on MODIS data, it extends the existing burned area time series backwards by almost 20 years. This gives users interested in historical burn patterns the ability to analyse decadal trends.

The global burned products FireCCI51 and FireCCILT11 can be accessed from the ESA Climate Change Initiative Open Data Portal.