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Individual Highlight

Measuring Prescribed Burns in Tropical Savannas

Fire spread and radiant-energy flux of a prescribed fire in tropical savanna near Brasilia, Brazil, as measured by six overflights by airborne remote sensing. Forest ServiceSnapshot : A remote-sensing based model has been developed that produces heat flux estimates that are highly consistent with in situ fire plume measurements. Because carbon flux from the fires was strongly correlated with heat flux measurements, the rate of fuel consumption by the entire flaming front of a large fire can be estimated from fire temperatures estimated from remotely-sensed short- and mid-wave infrared.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Riggan, Philip J. 
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2011
Highlight ID : 369


Remote measurements of the Tapera fire have provided an unprecedented look at the physical properties of a free-burning wildland fire. Although the mean radiometric temperature, determined from radiances at 1.6 and 3.9 m, varied only by 128 K across six successive overflights, spatial variation in temperature was much greater: 95 percent of all spatial measurements spanned a range of ca. 600 K. In comparison with fire-line temperature, radiant-flux density, a measure of fire intensity, showed greater variability from regions of actively spreading fire lines to the fire's trailing flank and across the width of some actively spreading fire runs. Fire was observed to spread along vectors with the wind at velocities of up to 0.74 m/s. Fire radiant-flux density was well correlated with the measured radiance of the fire at 3.9-m wavelength; measurements at that single wavelength could be used to map important features of fire behavior. Remote sensing methodology first applied at the Tapera fire is expected to have wide application for understanding the behavior and environmental effects of wildland fires.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renov?veis, U.S. Agency for International Development, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Research and Scientific Exchange Division andNASA Process Studies ProgramNational Center for Atmospheric ResearchInstituto Brasileiro de Geographia e Estatstica

Program Areas