GeoStationary Fire data for Developing Countries

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: NCEO-King’s

Abstract

Developing countries are the site of most landscape burning worldwide. They burn the most peatland and forest, have the highest deforestation and net fire-related greenhouse gas emissions, squander economic opportunity by burning agricultural residues, have infrastructure such as power lines and resources such as forest plantations and protected areas at risk from fire, and experience the most recurrent and worst air pollution events associated with landscape burning. Atmospheric impacts spread far beyond national borders, making this a regional problem through the spread of pollution, and a global problem through impacts on climate from carbon emissions. Billions of dollars have been spent on the ground- and space-based infrastructure necessary to provide real-time, continuous remote sensing observations that support meteorological forecasts worldwide. Our Project will harness this infrastructure in order to benefit developing country users who, because of the above issues, require accurate, actionable, and extremely up-to-date information on the location and characteristics of wildfires in their area of interest, and on the smoke that these fires are releasing into the atmosphere.

Our project will make available real-time, accurate and actionable information on landscape fires and fire emissions through a combination of work by the UK team and our overseas partners. This new information will cover dozens of DAC-list countries in the tropics and sub-tropics that experience significant challenges from landscape burning, and so the benefits will be regional throughout the tropics and sub-tropics, rather than to only a few nations. We will use a source of new continuous and real-time (10 to 15 minute update frequency) meteorological satellite data to provide this real-time intelligence on wildfire state, exploiting algorithms developed under NERC funded research and working with Partners (IPMA, Portugal and UNAM, Mexico) who will implement these algorithms in their own satellite data processing chains to provide 24-hr guaranteed (99%) information availability on landscape fires. The resulting real-time wildfire information will be made available to users in all developing nations through the already extremely widely used Advanced Fire Information System (AFIS) run by our Partner CSIR, South Africa, who have tens of thousands of users already and as a result of this new pan-tropical information will greatly extend their reach throughout the tropics since this highest temporal resolution data is currently only available at the highest quality over North and West Africa. Our project will also provide the information required to turn the real-time fire information into real-time estimates of fire emissions - particularly focusing on health-impacting particulate matter and total carbon emissions, which will benefit developing country users who are focused on health-impacting particulate and GHG emissions assessments and the national programmes aimed at their reduction. Overall our project will provide a real step-change in actionable fire information available in the developing countries of South and Southeast Asia, Southern and East Africa, Mexico, Central and South America. Institutions and individuals in these regions will be able to identify fires burning close to power lines and/or other important critical infrastructure in order to take action (e.g. temporarily turn off the power line letting the fire pass underneath without problems), that have started within or close to forest reserves, plantations or protected areas (with the potential to dispatch fire response crews in a far more timely manner than currently), and which are impacting health and national GHG emissions (with information now available to better quantify these, ultimately in support at efforts to reduce them and thus gain through health improvements and/or REDD+ schemes.

Keywords: Wildfires, smoke, satellites, infrastructure and area protection.

Planned Impact

This Project is aimed at a series of development challenges impacted by landscape burning and its effects on infrastructure, on air quality and human health, and on natural resources such as forests and forest plantations. Work on the following Challenges are targeted to benefit (i) the recurrent air pollution, human health and wider environmental impacts that stem from open burning and the resulting transboundary 'haze', which despite initiatives at the national (e.g. China, India) and regional (e.g. the ASEAN Regional Haze Action Plan and the Transboundary Agreement on Fire and Haze Pollution) remain a prominent and pressing issues facing many DAC-List countries today; (ii) the fact that the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement require reporting on national greenhouse gas emissions, and many forested nations wish to develop effective reduction programmes, for example under the UN REDD+ programme, but are limited in part because methods to more fully calculate current fire-emitted GHG releases and then account for any future avoided emissions (e.g. delivered by REDD+ implementations) are currently immature; (iii) the need to deliver protection from fires for nationally important infrastructure such as power transmission lines and the associated urban areas, civil and industrial infrastructure powered from them; and (iv) the requirement for national organisations in many DAC-list countries to monitor and respond to unwanted landscape fires in key natural resource areas (e.g. forest plantations) and areas of special interest (e.g. forest reserves and protected areas) to protect these important resources from potential harm.

Benefits stem from the improved ability of in-country organisations to address each of these Challenges using the new, real-time, accurate and actionable information on landscape fires and fire emissions that our project will provide, via a combination of work by the UK team and our overseas partners. This new information will cover dozens of DAC-list countries in the tropics and sub-tropics that experience significant challenges from landscape burning, and so the benefits will be regional throughout the tropics and sub-tropics, rather than to only a few nations. Our project will specifically extend the provision of almost continuous and real-time (10 to 15 minute update frequency) wildfire information to cover the entire tropics and sub-tropics. We will provide this new source of real-time intelligence on wildfire state, which has trusted accuracy and is available to all with 24-hr guaranteed (99%) availability, through the already very widely used Advanced Fire Information System (AFIS) run by our Partner CSIR in South Africa, who will also greatly extend its user base (already 20,000) as a result of this new geostationary satellite information - which is currently only available at the highest quality over North and West Africa, at reduced quality over Southern and Eastern Africa, and which is completely absent from Mexico, Central America, South America, South and Southeast Asia. AFIS have users in these regions awaiting this new information so that they can benefit from the same quality of information available in parts of Africa, and thus improve national responses to the aforementioned development challenges. Where nations have their own direct reception station for geostationary data (e.g. Mexico) we will work with these partners to ensure the best use of this important national infrastructure is made, enabling them to provide actionable wildfire information to their users (e.g. in Mexico CONABIO and CONAFOR) directly, without the need to access the AFIS portal. Finally, we will also provide the information required to turn the real-time fire information into real-time estimates of fire emissions - particularly focusing on health-impacting particulate matter and total carbon emissions to benefit both health and GHG emissions assessments and the national programmes aimed at their reduction.

Publications

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