According to a recent article from NASA’s Earth Observatory, Canada’s 2023 fire season has been described by wildland fire experts as: “record-breaking and shocking.”
During this period, a staggering 18.4 million hectares were consumed by fires – an area equivalent to the size of North Dakota.
To put this into perspective, on an average year, fires typically burn around 2.5 million hectares in Canada.
Though the reported number of fires, 6,595 by October, was not unusual, what was exceptional was the size of some of these blazes. Hundreds of these fires each exceeded 10,000 hectares, earning the label of “megafires.”
Furthermore, these megafires were not limited to a specific region but spread across Canada, from provinces like British Columbia and Alberta in the west, to Quebec and the Atlantic provinces in the east, and even reaching as far as the Northwest Territories and the Yukon in the north.
NASA scientists kept a close eye on these fires, utilizing a new system: the Fire Events Data Suite (FEDS).
This system, integrating both NOAA and NASA satellite data, offers a more detailed observation of fire growth, behavior, and activity than previous systems.
Yang Chen, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California, Irvine, commented on the system’s capabilities: “The thing that really sets FEDS apart is that the system excels at tracking the daily, incremental spread of fires at 12-hour intervals.
“That makes near real-time monitoring possible and allows us to generate much more detailed views of fire progression than we have been able to do in the past.”
The FEDS system is not just about monitoring fires in real-time. It’s also an invaluable tool for research and firefighting tactics.
Douglas Morton from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center pointed out the system’s practical applications: “The FEDS system could help fire crews pinpoint the parts of a fire perimeter that are actively burning and might need attention—especially in remote areas where monitoring by aircraft or other means is limited.”
The alarming escalation in the scale and intensity of wildfires, as showcased by Canada’s 2023 fire season, underlines the pressing need for advanced monitoring systems. In regions like Canada, where vast areas are susceptible to wildfires, innovative solutions like the FEDS system can revolutionize our approach to fire management.
This not only aids in real-time firefighting but provides invaluable insights that can help shape future fire management strategies and research.