The world is on fire: ESA maps global wildfires

August 4, 2023  - By
Image: ESA

Image: ESA

Wildfires have recently spread across Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Algeria, Tunisia and Canada, causing mass environmental and economic damage as well as human casualties. Scientists have warned that wildfires are becoming more frequent and more widespread.

In response, an upgraded version of the World Fire Atlas from the European Space Agency (ESA) is now available. The atlas provides a detailed analysis and map of wildfires across the globe.

Rising global temperatures and the increased extreme weather has led to a surge in the number of wildfires rapidly consuming extensive areas of vegetation and forested lands.

Considering the severe wildfires, ESA has reopened its World Fire Atlas which offers an insight into the distribution of individual fires taking place at a global scale.

Through its interactive dashboard, users can compare the frequency of fires between countries as well as analyze the evolution of each wildfire taking place over time. The atlas was first available in 2019 and it supported both European civil protection agencies and firefighters.

The dashboard uses night-time data from the sea and land surface temperature radiometer (SLSTR) on board the Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite. Working like a thermometer in the sky, the sensor measures thermal infrared radiation to take the temperature of Earth’s land surfaces which is used to detect the fires.

Data from the Copernicus Sentinel-3B satellite will be added to the atlas in December.

Over the previous seven years, data from the World Fire Atlas show a substantial number of fires detected in Portugal, Italy, Greece, France and Spain.

Data also shows that Canada has experienced 11,598 fires during the first seven months of this year alone. This is a 705% increase compared to fires detected over the same period of the previous six years. Canada is currently battling the country’s worst wildfire season on record, with more than 10 million ha of land burned, which is said to increase in the coming weeks.

About the Author: Maddie Saines

Maddie was a managing editor at GPS World.