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Since NASA satellites programme MODIS began collecting measurements there has been a decrease in the total number of square kilometers burned each year. Between 2003 and 2019, that number has dropped by roughly 25 percent.
The control of fire is a goal that may well be as old as humanity, but the systematic monitoring of fire on a global scale is a much newer capability.
US - Forest - Service - Fire - Lookout
In the 1910s, the U.S. Forest Service began building fire lookout towers on mountain peaks in order to detect distant fires. A few decades later, fire-spotting airplanes flew onto the scene. Then in the early 1980s, satellites began to map fires over large areas from the vantage point of space.
Over time, researchers have built a rich and textured record of Earth’s fire activity and are now able to analyze decadal trends. “The pace of discovery has increased dramatically during the satellite era,” said James Randerson, a scientist at the University of California, Irvine. “Having high-quality, daily observations of fires available on a global scale has been critical.”
Animation - Locations - Fires - Basis - Decades
The animation above shows the locations of actively burning fires on a monthly basis for nearly two decades. The maps are based on observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. The colors are based on a count of the number (not size) of fires observed within a 1,000-square-kilometer area. White pixels show the high end of the count—as many as 30 fires in a 1,000-square-kilometer area per day. Orange pixels show as many as 10 fires, while red areas show as few as 1 fire per day.
The sequence highlights the rhythms—both natural and human-caused—in global fire activity. Bands of fire sweep across Eurasia, North America, and Southeast Asia as farmers clear and maintain fields in April and May. Summer brings new activity in boreal and temperate...
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