With funding from NASA's Applied Sciences Program, scientists at the University of Maryland-College Park began developing the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) in 2006 to test whether they could quickly convert satellite snapshots of wildfires into user-friendly formats.
The system combines images with Geographical Information Systems (commonly called GIS) technology to distribute fire hotspot email alerts and other products -- downloadable fire images; fire locations that can be overlaid on Google Earth maps; customizable interactive fire mapping where users can bookmark locations of fire interest; and maps from NASA's own Google Earth-like World Wind plug-in -- to organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization as well as Conservation International.
Beyond the scope of its precursor's capability, the new UN detection system also provides country-specific reports. "Having this kind of information served up to us in an email every day is a huge advance," said Davies. The new GFIMS Web tool was officially launched on August 12, though many people have been accessing MODIS fire data through the University of Maryland's prototype FIRMS system for over a year. More than 29,000 visitors found the site on Aug. 9 alone, seeking information on the wildfires burning through more than 300 square miles of Russia's landscape.
When fires burn, smoke plumes carrying carbon monoxide and other tiny polluted particles can span hundreds of miles across populated areas. The plume in Russia, in fact, ran 1,860 miles from east to west last month. Eager to understand better the nature of fires, scientists are already putting the UN's system to use researching regional fires like Russia's and trends associated with climate change.
|Contact: Gretchen Cook-Anderson|
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center