Posted on October 6th, 2020

Free For All – October: Freely Accessible Wildfire Maps and Data



The past month has been a difficult time for many people across the United States. As we see natural disasters being exacerbated by Climate Change, year after year they wreak more havoc on individuals and critical infrastructure. We know hurricane season has also been extreme this year, but this article focuses on free resources for visualizing wildfires and air quality, as well as sources of updated GIS data.

NASA has a plethora of tools and data centers for visualizing wildfires. If you are familiar with GIS, you should have no problem navigating NASA’s Worldview Tool. With Worldview you can browse through hundreds of free satellite imagery layers, such as this one created for the 2018 Camp Fire in California. For a GIS tool that looks specifically at active fires and burned areas, check out FIRMS (the Fire Information for Resource Management System). Another way to view or download GIS data for fires and thermal anomalies is EarthData Search. EarthData uses imagery captured with highly-capable optical radiometer instruments, including MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) and VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite), which consistently record data in a variety of spectral bands to understand the dynamic climate systems of Earth. To better understand wildfire, the USGS LANDFIRE Data Distribution Site allows users to view and download data regarding vegetation type, fuels, fire regimes, and more within the United States. MAXAR has an open data forum which includes pre and post-event imagery of the Colorado and California fires.

If you are not as familiar with GIS or data centers, there are easy-to-use online maps with updates on wildfire. ESRI’s Wildfire Public Information Map is a simple visualizer with useful information, including current incidents and their perimeters as well as warnings. The Fire, Weather & Avalanche Center provides an updated list of current US wildfires as well as a map of their locations. If you want to look at a map of both fire and air quality, check out this one created by AirNow.

While staying informed and aware of natural disasters is important, donating is an additional important step. If you are looking to support those affected by the California fires, check out this article from the New York Times. We appreciate you tuning into this month’s Free For All, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by current and past natural disasters.

Jake Zatz
Social Media Guru

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