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Fire and smoke observed from the Earth Observing System MODIS instrument--products, validation, and operational use

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The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor, launched on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Terra satellite at the end of 1999, was designed with 36 spectral channels for a wide array of land, ocean, and atmospheric investigations. MODIS has a unique ability to observe fires, smoke, and burn scars globally. Its main fire detection channels saturate at high brightness temperatures: 500 K at 4 µm and 400 K at 11 µm, which can only be attained in rare circumstances at the 1 km fire detection spatial resolution. Thus, unlike other polar orbiting satellite sensors with similar thermal and spatial resolutions, but much lower saturation temperatures (e.g. Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer and Along Track Scanning Radiometer), MODIS can distinguish between low intensity ground surface fires and high intensity crown forest fires. Smoke column concentration over land is for the first time being derived from the MODIS solar channels, extending from 0.41 µm to 2.1 µm. The smoke product has been provisionally validated both globally and regionally over southern Africa and central and south America. Burn scars are observed from MODIS even in the presence of smoke, using the 1.2 to 2.1 µm channels. MODIS burned area information is used to estimate pyrogenic emissions. A wide range of these fire and related products and validation are demonstrated for the wild fires that occurred in northwestern USA in Summer 2000. The MODIS rapid response system and direct broadcast capability is being developed to enable users to obtain and generate data in near real-time. It is expected that health and land management organizations will use these systems for monitoring the occurrence of fires and the dispersion of smoke within two to six hours after data acquisition.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: NASA/Goddard SFC, Laboratory for Atmospheres (913), Greenbelt MD 20771, USA 2: Rocky Mountain Research Station, Forest Service, USDA, Missoula, MT 59807, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2003

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