May 27, 2022

NASA: A New Tool for Tracking Amazon Fires

From the NASA Earth Observatory:

In May and June 2020, warm Atlantic Ocean surface temperatures pointed to a greater risk of drought for key parts of the Amazon rainforest. Satellite-based deforestation tracking systems also have observed large patches of rainforest being razed in recent months, suggesting there is plenty of drying wood primed to burn. Finally, experts have warned that current economic conditions and incentives make land-clearing more likely.

But there is at least one piece of good news: NASA-funded researchers have developed new tools that will make it easier for governments and other stakeholders to understand what types of fires are burning, where they are burning, and how much risk those fires pose to the rainforest. The satellite-driven, web-based tool quickly classifies fires into one of four categories—deforestation, understory fires, small clearing and agricultural fires, and savanna/grassland fires.


For each fire listed on the Amazon fire dashboard, scientists rank their confidence in the categorization of the fire as high, medium, or low. These rankings can change over time. For instance, it is initially challenging to distinguish between deforestation and understory fires, but it becomes easier over time because understory fires tend to spread farther and burn steadily over a long period, explained Andela.

The dashboard collects daytime and nighttime fire detections from the VIIRS sensors on the Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 satellites. Land cover data comes from MODIS and Landsat. And data about the location of recent deforestation comes from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which draws on multiple satellites to identify such areas.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.