Novel upcoming satellite sensors will provide critical information about fires

Hyperspectral satellite sensors will lead to a better understanding of fires, say scientists in a study led by VU Earth Scientist Sander Veraverbeke.

07/05/2018 | 4:19 PM

The research was done together with American colleagues from among others NASA and the University of California. In the article, published in the leading Earth observation journal Remote Sensing of Environment, the researchers show the capabilities of hyperspectral sensors for estimating fuel moisture, detecting and mapping fires and their emissions, and monitoring ecosystem recovery after fire.

It is expected that the technological breakthrough of having one or more so called hyperspectral satellite sensors will lead to a better understanding of these processes, and the role of fire in the climate system.

A new generation
Satellite observations have successfully been used since approximately the 1980s to map land cover and changes on the Earth surface. This is based on multispectral sensors. Multispectral means that observations are made in multiple wavelength intervals, mostly between 3 and 15, from visible and infrared light.

A new generation of hyperspectral sensors is ready to complement traditional multispectral sensors. Hyperspectral sensors take images over many, often more than 100, small wavelength intervals. Prior studies with hyperspectral sensor mounted on planes demonstrated that this allows more detailed research in a wide range of applications.

Scheduled launches
To date, very little hyperspectral data has been acquired from space. The recent Decadal Survey for Earth Science and Applications from Space of the National Academy of Sciences in the USA, pointed a hyperspectral satellite mission out as the top priority for Earth observation in the next 10 years.

With the scheduled launches of hyperspectral satellite sensors like the Environmental Mapping And Analysis Program (EnMAP) from the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) and NASA’s Hyperspectral Infared Imager in the next few years, this recommendation will soon become reality.