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How satellite imagery helped detect forest fire in Congo?

36,000 hectare of forest has burnt in the Republic of Congo from November 2015 to April 2016. Images from Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 have been combined to reveal that. A very strong El Niño is the reason behind frequent forest fires in the area. During the peak, fire was spreading at a rate of 1,600 hectares a day. The maps show that the origin of the fires correlates with accessibility to the forest, suggesting they were caused by human activity. These forests are not only an important habitat for large mammals such as gorillas and forest elephants, but they also store large quantities of carbon. Data from the Sentinels are available because of the European Union‘s Copernicus free and open data policy. With a temporal resolution of 10 days and a spatial resolution of 10 m, Sentinel-2A images allow the timing and extent of fire events to be mapped precisely. The success of the Sentinel-1 and -2 satellites will soon be supported by Sentinel-3. The Sentinels are a fleet of dedicated EU-owned satellites, designed to deliver the wealth of data and imagery that are central to Europe‘s Copernicus environmental programme.