Flambe helps with firefighting, weather and air quality forecasts

May 28, 2002

Several federal agencies have teamed with universities in the development of revolutionary new fire and smoke monitoring products under a program using satellite data that will help with improving weather and visibility forecasts, firefighting efforts and air quality forecasts as smoke and fire events are happening. The Fire Locating and Monitoring of Burning Emissions (FLAMBE) Project is the combined effort of three federal agencies and two universities.

Satellite data has been used in the past to develop similar products, but not on a real-time or "as they're happening basis" on such a scale. The FLAMBE project supports the entire Western Hemisphere, not just individual fires as other products cover.

The FLAMBE project was formed in an attempt to track and predict biomass burning emissions and radiative effects in real-time and input them into a global meteorology forecast computer model. The U.S. Navy, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the University of Alabama, and Wisconsin-Madison have joined together to create more timely satellite and smoke data products.

The Wildfire ABBA (Automated Biomass Burning Algorithm) product is the first satellite application using geostationary satellites (that circle the Earth over a region, keeping up with the Earth's rotation) to detect and monitor forest fires every half-hour. NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) GOES-8 and GOES-10 supply the data used to create the fire products every half-hour for the entire Western Hemisphere.

"FLAMBE is one of the few projects to take real-time satellite data and put it into a real-time aerosol forecast model. While we emphasize the relationship between smoke and weather, we are also working to estimate burned areas, smoke fluxes and radiative impacts, climate effects, and assess regional air quality," said Jeffrey Reid of the U.S. Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, San Diego (SSC-SD) and a lead researcher on the FLAMBE project.

In addition to forest fires, ABBA successfully monitors agricultural burning. Smoke production estimates based on the ABBA data are integrated into a Naval Research Laboratory transport model that allows scientists and meteorologists to give early warnings of haze events downwind. "It is also the first product that can provide estimates of biomass burning particle emissions," said Elaine Prins of the NOAA NESDIS Advanced Satellite Products Team and lead scientist of the Wildfire ABBA monitoring program.

The number of applications for being able to see, track and project smoke from fires as they are happening is tremendous.

Each team member is looking at the products from their own perspective. The Navy is looking for a visibility product because it's important to both military and civilian pilots for mission/flight planning. Secondly, the Navy is tasked with running the global meteorology models for the armed services. Navy scientists believe that the incorporation of smoke data into meteorology models can help improve forecasts in some parts of the world such as South America and Southeast Asia.

NASA's interest in the Wildfire ABBA products is to better understand global climate. The Wildfire ABBA enables estimation of instantaneous fire size and temperature, from which smoke radiative impacts can be assessed. Fire monitoring products from NASA's Terra satellite will be compared with those from ABBA, to ensure the accuracy of both products. Also, both products complement each other because ABBA provides products in short time intervals, while Terra provides highly detailed products twice daily.

The geostationary Wildfire ABBA allows for early detection of rapidly growing fires, especially in remote areas, and half-hourly monitoring to indicate if the fire is intensifying or not. "For example, for the 2001 Viejas fire in San Diego, the Wildfire ABBA product recognized the fire 15 minutes after the estimated ignition time. Currently it takes 90 minutes to be posted on-line, but we hope to make that quicker," said Reid. This internet-based product is available to firefighters and the general public in near real-time.

NOAA is utilizing the Wildfire ABBA information primarily for fire weather forecasting and climate change applications.

This project is funded in part by the NASA Earth Science Enterprise Interdisciplinary Science program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Navy.

Reid will present this paper, "South American Smoke Coverage and Flux Estimations from the Fire Locating and Modeling of Burning Emissions (FLAMBÉ) System." at the American Geophysical Union Spring 2002 meeting at the Washington D.C. Convention Center on Tuesday, May 28, 2002 at 1:30p.m. Session: A22E-04 Location: WCC 15
The FLAMBE webpage is at:

The ABBA Fire Product web site can be found at:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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