Scientists help firefighters battle changing conditions by combining computer fire models and infrared satellite dataBetween those ellipses is a well-written description of some truly brilliant reasoning. Modeling the behavior of wildfire modeling isn't new, but all attempts to predict how wildfires act over a period of more than a few hours have been up against seeming insurmountable obstacles -- until Schroeder's brainstorm.
The Suomi NPP, a weather satellite operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, carries a special infrared sensor capable of capturing high-resolution images anywhere on the globe. Called the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), this small device can observe the Earth's surface at a much finer scale than the average satellite sensor.
Shifting through the troves of data sent back from the VIIRS [satellite], University of Maryland professor of geography Wilfred Schroeder identified a signature pattern that denotes wildfire activity. By feeding the resulting fire image data into [Janice] Coen's model every 12 hours, the two scientists were able to essentially "reboot" the system, depicting the outlines of a fire with a high degree of accuracy, even when it lasted for several weeks."
Coen and Schroeder are currently working with national firefighting agencies to adapt their technique to the on-the-ground needs of firefighters. They hope to begin introducing a practicable model next year.
But right now there is great urgency to put the new model into practice, although I'm sure the scientists don't need to be told this. (See the next Pundita post.)