Natural disasters monitoring is one of the most demanded tasks of remote sensing. It involves not only instant notifications of a rapidly changing situation, but also the correlation of dozens of factors that can lead to a disaster. Today the main task is not just displaying what has already happened and can be seen on interactive maps. Remote sensing today is more about forecasting events. 

The developers from the Russian Research and Development Center ScanEx say that the fire map is one of the most widespread geoservices in Russia. It has existed for more than 11 years and over the past year has been updated on several indicators:

  • to calculate hot spots and fire clusters, data from space systems MODIS, NPP, NOAA-20 are now used together, which significantly increased the amount of data and their accuracy;
  • now all users have access to cartograms of fire statistics by regions of the Russian Federation;
  • any user can view the original space images on the map, which were used to calculate the fires, as well as additionally study detailed images from the Sentinel-2 and Landsat-8 satellites if there is a survey on the territory of large fires and burnt-out areas.

“The time for updating the data depends on the flight of satellites over a particular territory. On average, the frequency is 2-4 times a day. The orbits are built in such a way that each satellite is over a certain area twice a day – once during the day and once at night. Closer to northern latitudes, the frequency increases due to overlapping spans”, says Deputy Director of SCANEX Alexey Korobov.

Russian National Center for Crisis Management (NCCM) makes its forecasts based on the ScanEx models. The Ministry of Emergency Situations was created two years ago, now all information about emergencies in Russia and abroad is accumulated in the data processing center. The space monitoring system operates on a daily basis, in close cooperation with the state corporation Roscosmos. The centers for receiving and processing space information of the Ministry of Emergency Situations are located in Krasnoyarsk, Vologda and Vladivostok. To predict natural fires, the department uses information about thermal points and the study of the dynamics of various phenomena using space monitoring.

“As for unmanned aerial systems, they are in every territorial body, both aircraft and helicopter types. They are used for monitoring and forecasting emergencies, as well as for assessing the consequences of emergencies that have already occurred”, explains Nikita Ostudin, specialist of the spatial data department of the space monitoring department of the State Institution of Science and Technology of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations.

EOS Data Analytics is another company that focuses on detecting heat anomalies in monitoring the safety of forests in North America. In addition, the EOSDA Forest Monitoring system takes into account changes in the weather, correlates it with historical highs, and estimates the amount of water in the ground. It is the dehydration of the earth that often causes the grass to dry out and catch fire. However, a water scarcity at a checkpoint does not necessarily portend a wildfire. Perhaps a large-scale felling is taking place nearby – it also leads to dehydration, and this factor also has to be taken into account by the program developers. The same satellite technologies are used for forestry. In one of its slogans, EOS Data Analytics promises to create harmony between earth and space.

According to the US Forest Service, about 3 million hectares of forest per year are killed by fire in the United States. In Russia, the area of ​​forest fires in 2021 exceeded 10 million hectares, according to the Russian Federal Forestry Agency “Rosleskhoz”.

Interactive maps are arranged in a very straightforward way:  when zooming-in the user sees small orange dots – specific places of origin of fire. Zooming-out and the big red spots fall on the map of continents. This is a real situation and it looks intimidating. But not knowing about the frequency of fires, their intensity and direction is even worse.