NASA’s ECOSTRESS instrument collected ground surface temperature data over the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon from July 7-22. Red areas – the hottest pixels detected – show the fire front where resources are most needed. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech
The instrument on the International Space Station is uniquely positioned to provide forest fire rescue teams with a high-resolution view of the course of the fire.
NASA’s ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) helps fight fires in the western United States
On July 28, 2021, the size of the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon was more than 410,000 acres, making it the largest area fire currently burning in the United States. So far, around 400 buildings and more than 340 vehicles have been destroyed. Wildfire responders have managed to contain around 53% of the fire and new data from ECOSTRESS is helping.
ECOSTRESS measures the surface temperature from the perspective of the International Space Station and its ability to observe fires in the northwestern United States, often twice a day with high spatial resolution (approx. 70 meters), makes it ideal for tracking fires. Researchers from the RADR Fire Team at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have experimented with ECOSTRESS data as part of a new tool that is now being implemented for first responders such as the US Forest Service.
In the visualization above, ECOSTRESS tracks the movement of the bootleg fire and identifies its proximity to critical infrastructure – red areas represent the hottest pixels that ECOSTRESS has detected. The extreme heat in these areas indicates the fire front or where resources are most needed.
The capabilities of ECOSTRESS are unique. Satellites that collect data more frequently do not have high enough resolution to trace the fine line of the fire front, and satellites with a higher resolution than ECOSTRESS cross the same area much less frequently (every 5 to 16 days).
NASA’s ECOSTRESS instrument collected ground surface temperature data over the Dixie Fire in Northern California July 15-24. Red areas – the hottest pixels detected – show the fire front where resources are most needed. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech
NASA’s ECOSTRESS instrument collected ground surface temperature data over the Dixie Fire in Northern California from July 15 through July 24. Red areas – the hottest pixels detected – show the fire front where resources are most needed.Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech
ECOSTRESS also collected data on Dixie Fire in Northern California, which has doubled to more than 220,000 acres in the past few days. In the Dixie Fire data visualization above, the red areas show the hottest pixels – and fire movement – from July 15th through July 24th. The hardest hit areas are south of Lake Almanor in Plumas County. On July 27th, the Dixie Fire was 23% contained.
More than 7,000 employees are involved in responding to the two fires. Although they have many tools in their arsenal, the use of space-based data like that of ECOSTRESS is still relatively new – and also serves as a good example of the versatility and real impact of satellite data.
Further information on ECOSTRESS can be found at: