NASA Explorers S3 E1: Seeing Through Smoke

NASA Explorers S3 E1: Seeing Through Smoke


NASA.
The Agency that landed on the moon, launched the Hubble Space Telescope,
and took the first rover selfie? Yeah, that NASA.
We also chase fires.

NASA Explorers

Introducing Season Three
Fires
This team is in the middle of a recovery operation.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
is using NASA satellite data to map the path of destruction
after the 2018 Camp Fire.
NASA has the tallest fire towers.
With our satellites looking down from space,
catching images every day and every night,
were often the first to detect and then share information about fires,
especially fires that are burning in remote locations.
That’s where we can come in and provide a much better picture.
and so I have NASA MODIS and VIIRS stuff
which we always use on Google Earth
You can kinda see the streets here.
This is a neighborhood – totally burned down.
A NASA rapid response grant allowed the team to study the impact of the Camp Fire
just four months after it was contained.
NASA provides crucial tools for both first responders and fire recovery managers.
But there are even bigger implications for understanding the future of fire.
The information we collect from satellites helps us understand not just when are where fires are burning,
but what kind of changes they’re making to the ecosystems on the ground and our atmosphere up above.
I’m Doug Morton and I’m a Earth System Scientist,
here at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Doug is one NASA’s go-to scientists when it comes to making sense of how fires
effect people and ecosystems.
You need three things to make a fire.
You something to burn, you need climate conditions that allow that fire to start and grow large,
and you need a source of ignition.
Today, the source of ignition is almost always humans.

We can use information about rainfall and climate to anticipate landscapes
that might be come flammable in the future.
That kind of predictive power, how we harness our understanding of the Earth’s system, has really helped us move forward
in terms of anticipating and minimizing the risk to landscapes that might be flammable
next week, or even next season.
But the real work of science, may be something that
many people don’t have a lot of visibility into.
When we talk about taking a team of scientists and putting them into the field,
that can mean weeks, months, or even years of collecting data.
The first time I spent in the Amazon was in the early 2000’s,
just at the peak of deforestation rates in Brazil.
And I don’t think anyone could make it to the end of the frontier landscape,
standing at the edge of a road and looking in all directions and seeing towering columns of black smoke
and not feel like there was an opportunity to be careful with our planet.

Fires have been burning across the southern Amazon,
an area I’ve been working in for the last twenty years.
And so, people have looked to me to explain is this normal?
One of the things I can do as a NASA scientist is, I can go back in time.
Our data record allows us to literally compare actives that are happening everyday
with these same days and same kinds of conditions, previous years.

From space, we’re mapping fires across the entire planet
and that often takes us to remote locations.
And the best way to partner and understand those remote locations is
with people who live and work in those communities.
So, that’s what we did.
This year NASA is sending a blitz of missions into the field and you’re coming with us.
Climate change is shepherding in a new era of fires that burn hotter and longer.
And our pilots. Our partners. Our scientist and engineers?

They’ve come prepared to meet the challenge.
NASA Explorers

On the next episode of NASA Explorers
Some of my days have been 14, 16 and 18 hours.
We don’t hesitate to meet challenging conditions.
You know, you can tolerate a lot for a day or two.
Episode Two: Follow that Plume!

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