NASA MODIS satellite data used by U of C prof to predict Alberta wildfires
'The end goal is to develop a forest fire forecasting system which can augment the existing system'
A University of Calgary professor is using NASA satellite data to better understand forest fire dangers across Alberta, particularly in remote areas that lack traditional weather stations.
Because maintaining meteorological stations in remote locations can be challenging and expensive, Quazi Hassan and his research team have found a workaround to collect data for the same weather variables.
Using data from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite, Hassan has been able to create five classes of forest fire risk based on precipitable water, land surface temperature and vegetation moisture.
Hassan's team found that their extremely high, very high and high classifications coincided with 77 per cent of the wildfires in Alberta from 2009 to 2011.
These findings were promising enough that after five years of funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), his project has received another five-year federal grant.
"The end goal is to develop a forest fire forecasting system which can augment the existing system," Hassan said in an interview with The Homestretch.
Alberta has roughly 350 meteorological stations that collect data on temperature, wind speed, humidity and rainfall.
Hassan hopes these mechanisms will allow firefighters and officials to respond more quickly to wildfires.
His team also plans to investigate broader questions of how wildfires behave and what drives smoke migration patterns.
With files from The Homestretch