Detecting and Monitoring Wildfires Around The World

The European Copernicus Earth Observation program is supporting emergency response teams to detect and monitor fire outbreaks with unprecedented resolution.

Every summer, strong winds, dry weather and high temperatures cause wildfires all around the world, burning thousands of acres of forests, fields and even national parks. This year wildfires were particularly pernicious, as rain levels have fallen by 30 percent. 

There has been 30 percent more wildfires in June in July than there were a year earlier, the New York Times said. This week, around 3,700 people were fighting 138 fires across British Columbia, Canada, with over 6,000 people under an evacuation order. Earlier in July, the wildfires also spread all over Southern Europe. In France, fires raged on Tuesday less than 15 km from the resort city of Nice. In Croatia, fires have damaged homes in the historic city of Split. The flames also entered Donana National Park in Spain, one of the country’s most important nature reserves and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Data captured by Copernicus satellites is facilitating to detect and monitor outbreaks of fire in forests and cities with unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution. Satellite-derived information combined with meteorological forecasting data is supporting fire fighters to make faster and more efficient plans to prevent and extinguish wildfires. This information is also useful for analyzing the impact of fires, assessing vegetation damage and developing recovery plans. 

Sentinel-1 and -2 satellites benefit fire monitoring and damage assessment with radar and high-resolution optical imagery. In this composite image, you can see wildfires near Split, Croatia, imaged by the Multi-Spectral Instrument (MSI) aboard the Sentinel-2A. The images were taken July 17th, 2017. The cloud produced by the fire is visible in the picture, with highlights in yellow and red showing areas with possible ongoing or recent fires.


The Copernicus Program

Five Copernicus satellites are now in orbit (Sentinel 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 3A). Two more satellites will go into orbit in the next months: Sentinel-5P and Sentinel-3B.

Six families of Sentinel satellites make up the core of EU's Copernicus environmental monitoring program. They provide a unique set of observations that start with the all-weather, day and night radar images from Sentinel-1 and continue with optical images from Sentinel-2. Sentinel-3 will observe ocean properties and behavior, while Sentinel-4 will measure atmospheric gases. Finally, Sentinel-5 will help monitor air quality, and Sentinel-6 will provide high-precision and timely observations of the topography of the global ocean.

Discover the satellites that are shaping our future

In this edition of OPENSPACE, we present you some of the most ground-breaking projects that are using satellite technology to transform our lives.