U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Fire Science Brief, Issue 74, October 2009


US government work.


Data and algorithms from earth-orbiting satellite observations provide key components in scientists’ tools that can map active fi res and burn scars. Fire perimeter maps can then be crafted using this data. Armed with fi re perimeter maps that have been linked to fuel maps of the area burning, scientists can calculate emissions from recently burned areas, determine the quantity of emitted gases and particulates, and determine where these emissions will travel downwind from the burn site. For this project, data from satellite sources has been compared against data collected on the ground by ground-based instruments and incident management teams, and the algorithms validated. Techniques, algorithms, and software, such as fi re detections, burn scar detections, and emission maps—created or updated for this project—are generally applicable to any air quality forecasting system. Data and information will be made readily available to managers through a publicly available web site.