24 May 2006 – For a decade now, ESA (European Space Agency) satellites have been continuously surveying fires burning across the Earth’s surface. Worldwide fire maps based on this data are now available to users online in near-real time through ESA’s ATSR World Fire Atlas. The ATSR World Fire Atlas (WFA) – the first multi-year global fire atlas ever developed – provides data approximately six hours after acquisition and represents an important scientific resource because fire is a major agent of environmental change.
Quantifying fire is important for the ongoing study of climate change. The 1998 El Niño, for example, helped encourage fires across Borneo which emitted up to 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, equivalent to Europe’s entire carbon emissions that year. There are over 200 registered users accessing the WFA.
The data are being used in Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Africa and Australia for research in atmospheric chemistry, land use change, global change ecology, fire prevention and management and meteorology. Harvard University, University of Toronto, National Centre for Atmosphere and NASA, among others, have used the data in research publications. To date, there are more than 100 scientific publications based on WFA data. The WFA is an internal and Data User Programme (DUP) project.