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Characterization of the spatio-temporal patterns of global fire activity using satellite imagery for the period April 1992 to March 1993

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Aim This paper describes the characteristics of the spatio-temporal distribution of vegetation fires as detected from satellite data for the 12 months April 1992 to March 1993.

Location Fires are detected daily at a spatial resolution of 1 km for all land areas of the globe.

Methods From the fire location information a daily gridded product at 0.5° by 0.5° has been constructed. Two methods of characterizing the spatio-temporal pattern of vegetation fires are discussed. The first applies empirical orthogonal function analysis to the monthly series of gridded data. The second approach defines and extracts a number of spatial and temporal parameters from the gridded product. The descriptive parameters extracted are used in a cluster analysis in order to group cells with similar characteristics into a small number of classes.

Results Using daily global satellite observations, it is possible to characterize the spatial and temporal variability in fire activity. Most of this variability is within the tropical belt, where the majority of fire activity is concentrated, nonetheless fire was also detected in temperate and boreal regions. The period in which fire occurred varied from region to region. Parameterization provided a very synthetic view of this variability facilitating regional intercomparison. Clustering identifies five classes of fire activity, each of which can be associated with particular climatic conditions, vegetation types and land-use.

Main conclusions Global monitoring of vegetation fire from satellite is possible. The analysis provides a coherent, consistent and synoptic view of global fire activty with one data set. The type of information extracted can be of use in global atmospheric chemistry modelling and for studying the role of fire in relation to global change issues.

Keywords: Vegetation fire; empirical orthogonal functions; global fire patterns; remote sensing of fire

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: 1: Global Vegetation Monitoring Unit, TP 440, Space Applications Institute, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, 21020 Ispra, Italy 2: Departamento de Engenharia Florestal, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, Tapada da Ajuda, 1399 Lisboa Codex, Portugal 3: Departamento de Fisica, Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande, Ed. C1, Piso 4, P-1700 Lisboa, Portugal

Publication date: January 1, 2000


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