Improvement of wildfire detection by combining sentinel observations with plume backtrackings from a dispersion model

Short Description

Starting point / motivation

Using earth observations is an important option to detect wildfires. Especially in areas far from populated regions, satellites support the identification of wildfires and allow issuing warnings in case of a developing event. False detections of fires by satellites are a common problem.

Contents and goals

The main goal of the research project FIREMODE is to improve the detection of wildfires by using state-of-the-art earth observation data, specifically data from Sentinel missions, together with modelling approaches in a combined new methodology.

Most of the current methods to detect wildfires by earth observations mainly use a single satellite-based data source to retrieve surface information. The innovation of our approach is to combine surface observations with atmospheric smoke plume measurements, by applying a dispersion model in backward mode to backtrack the possible source region of the smoke plume.


The identification of the smoke plume will be based on a new (to be developed) method, using the fires indicators CO and HCHO, for which thresholds will be defined that would be typically exceeded in case of a wildfire. For the evaluation, data from recent wildfires will be used, and the results of the new method will be compared with the results of existing satellite-based operational tools.

Expected results

The FIREMODE developments will be integrated into existing wildfire detection solutions with the aim to complement and improve these services. An emphasize lies on the link to the currently ongoing CONFIRM project (FFG ASAP 15) in which a novel, high-resolution forest fire danger system (IFDS) for Austria and neighbouring regions is under development.

Furthermore, the work conducted in FIREMODE also prepares for future applications with Sentinel-4, which will provide earth observations on very high temporal resolutions.

Project Partners


Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG)

Contact Address

Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG)
Hohe Warte 38
A-1190 Vienna