GRACEful Forecasting for Fire Risk in the Western United States

Earthzine2015 Spring VPS, Analyzing Air Quality and Habitat Health, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session

Category: Analyzing Air Quality and Habitat Health

Project Team: Western U.S. Disasters

Team Location: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory ‰ÛÒ Pasadena, California

This map displays the Surface Soil Moisture Content (percentage) for the contiguous United States, derived from data retrieved from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). Image Credit: Western U.S. Disasters Team


Daniel Jensen

Nick Rousseau

Brittany Zajic

Max Baldridge


Dr. John T. Reager (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)


Understanding fire severity directly related to alternating periods of wet and dry conditions in the western United States has faced limitations in determining areas that are at high risk. Consequently, recent drought conditions that accompanied by disastrous wildfire outbreaks cause economic loss, environmental degradation, and property damage. Fuel moisture content (FMC) is a measure that contributes to the fire severity in a given area. Thus, developing a remotely sensed FMC product accompanied by an assessment of climatic data can establish fuel accumulation. To properly evaluate FMC, assimilated data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED) was used to determine the extent to which dry years following wet years correlate with fire severity. Analysis including surface soil moisture content (SFMC) and GFED data produced a fire risk map at a coarse resolution of 0.25 degrees for the contiguous United States. These FMC and fire-risk products allow the Tactical Fire Remote Sensing Advisory Committee (TFRSAC) and the U.S. Forest Service Remote Sensing Applications Center (RSAC) to assess national-scale early fire management and provide responders with a predictive tool to better employ early decision-support to areas of high risk during fire seasons.

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