Applications of NASA EOS and GIS to Study Wildfires in Coahuila, Mexico

Fuel Risk Map for Coahuila, Mexico. Image Credit: DEVELOP

Image Credit: DEVELOP

Authors: Carlos Cardenas, Christian Gonzalez, Laura Helena, Hector Hernandez, Daniel Martinez, Ryan O’Quinn, Pedro Rodriguez Rivera, Rohini Swaminathan

Mentors/Advisers (affiliation): Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA Langley Research Center), Dr. DeWayne Cecil (Global Science and Technology Inc.)

Team Location: Wise County Clerk of Court’s Office, Wise, Virginia

Abstract: Forest fires are one of the most common natural disasters affecting thousands of people directly or indirectly every year. For the past decade, the state of Coahuila has been constantly affected by forest fires. In 2011, out of the 7850 fires reported in Mexico, around 76 percent were recorded in Coahuila, including record-breaking fire in April 2011. More than 100,000 hectares of land were scorched by April fire, which took weeks to be extinguished. With the collaboration of several Mexican agencies such as the Secretariat of Natural Resources and the Environment (SEMARNAT) and the National Center for Disaster Prevention (CENAPRED), our project aims to provide a detailed analysis of the effects of forest fires in this region. We will concentrate on the applications of NASA’s Earth Observation Systems including Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM), Aqua (with its sensors MODIS and AIRS) and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). First, Landsat 5 TM data will be used to derive NDVI (Normalized Differential Vegetation Index) and dNBR (Differenced Normalized Burn Ratio) values which give an overall idea of the extent of a fire in the study region. MODIS surface reflectance will be used for similar purposes, and also to serve as a comparison and validation to the results from Landsat. In addition to these products, we also will use MOD14 product to derive the Fire Radiative Power (FRP) and MOD45 to develop a methodology that can identify burning areas in real time. Finally, we intend to use fire growth simulation models such as FARSITE and Prometheus, to compute the fire behavior and spread outputs given the fuel, topography and weather conditions that best describe the study area. With this information, our project would have the resources to provide information that can be used to enhance the mitigation and assessment capabilities against wildfires in Coahuila.