Satellite based wild fire detection has proven a viable tool in collecting statistical information on the emission of greenhouse gases in the past. The characteristics of the NOAA series of meteorological satellites make it possible also to collect near real-time information in support of fire control activities.
For such occurrences as forest and vegetation fires, volcanic activity or burning oil spills and coal seam dedicated space instrumentation does not exist. The existing spaceborne instruments and the missions are not designed for fire detection; e.g. time coverage for the fire management is not satisfactory. Therefore, provision of data for fire management is only a by-product of the missions. New dedicated instruments, procedures and missions are needed.
Using AVHRR-data from the NOAA-satellite series a pilot experiment has been conducted during the years 1994 to 1998. This experiment has been performed in collaboration between the
Finnish Ministry of the Interior, as the user, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, providing the satellite data, and the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) which has performed the technical
realisation of the automatic forest fire alert system.
From the user point of view, the experiment has not been very reliable in the past. Only 10 % of the total number of forest fires in Finland have been detected from space. Reasons for this outcome are too few satellites, too few IR instruments, resolution and sensitivity were inadequate, and cloud cover has hindered observation of many fires. The satellite system should be improved. In a good system all the big fires should be detectable all day and night, every day of the week. Therefore, the development of a new satellite based forest fire observation and alerting system for Finland is very important.