Advancing and harmonising Earth Observation data capabilities for wildfire science

Landscape fire burns across, on average, more than 3.5 million km2 of Earth’s surface every year, equivalent to roughly the entire area of India. This measure has been obtained using long-term satellite (EO) records, there is no other way to provide such information globally using a consistent and standardised measurement approach, but it is almost certainly an underestimate because of the relative spatial coarseness of the data used, which is unable to detected the smallest, but often most frequent, types of burn. The measure is also highly variable, with some areas seeing order-of-magnitude variations in burned area between years. This one example of the use of satellite remote sensing shows how use of EO is both essential when studying landscape fires over large scales, but also is not yet providing the full set of information. Other EO approaches such as the detection and quantification of actively burning fires and their thermal energy and smoke emissions provide complementary information, even in real time as the fires are still burning.

The purpose of this postdoctoral project is to provide an underlying EO capability for the Centre, pursuing efforts to improve and enhance EO methods to more accurately and precisely target landscape fire activity, synergistically combining EO and other datasets to provide new and/or more accurate insights into landscape fire properties and behaviours, and where appropriate aiding other Centre projects and activities to exploit the most appropriate EO techniques and datasets for their purposes  whilst being mindful of both the information content and its limitations. Overall this post is aimed at equipping the Centre to best exploit remote sensing and satellite EO methods when addressing its research goals.

Project duration: to start 2021