1997 World ATSR Fire Atlas

O. Arino and JM. Rosaz

ESA/ESRIN, Directorate of Applications, Remote Sensing Exploitation Department

CP-64, Via Galileo Galilei, 00044 Frascati Italy

Tel: 0039 06 94108564 E-mail:,


Data from the ERS-2 ATSR-2 instrument have been used to derive a world fire atlas for the year 1997. The IGBP-DIS is currently coordinating the validation of this product. 30 scientists are taking part in the validation over several representative areas of the world. This first data set once validated will be extended to the whole ATSR data set from 1995 to now.


A long-term and frequently updated fire atlas is needed for land use, forestry, atmospheric chemistry, global climate, fire management studies and applications. The fire product has been identified by IGBP as an important input for global change analysis as underlined by Malingreau, (1990) and Andreae et al., (1990).

According to Malingreau, (1990) and Hao and Liu, (1994), the only solution for a rapid and efficient survey of biomass burning is the use of permanent operational satellite.


ATSR data are well suited to identify hot spots on the earth surface (derived from Dozier, 1981). As seen in Figure 1 ATSR 3.7 channel is very sensitive to radiation emitted at temperature between 500K to 1000K.

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Therefore, considering the absence of artifact due to the solar reflection during nighttime, the detection capabilities of ATSR can be estimated as follows: range from 0.1 ha at 600K, to 0.01 ha at 800K (Figure 2).

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The very good calibration of ATSR-2 Level 1B data (Mason, 1991, RAL, 1995, Mutlow et al., 1995) is achieved by the use of low noise infrared detectors cooled to near-optimum temperature by a Stirling cycle mechanical cooler and by the continuous on-board radiometric calibration of the infrared channel against 2 blackbody targets.

The stability of ERS-2 orbit along with the good orbit prediction algorithm ensure a precise geolocation (Dow and al., 1999).

Three algorithms are implemented (using nighttime data only):

  • Algorithm 1: 3.7 microns > 312 K. (ATSR-2 saturation).
  • Algorithm 2: 3.7 microns > 308 K.
  • Algorithm 3: 3.7 - 11.0 > 10K and 11.0 > 283K.

These three algorithms use only the 3.7 and 11.0 microns channels, but 1.6 and 12.0 microns channels are also available in the ATSR Level 1B data and can be use for future algorithm development (Striker et al., 1995).

Processing Facility

To create this fire atlas, more than 70000 ATSR-2 Level 1B products have been generated from Level 0 data. Each Level 1B product generated is systematically archived and can be retrieved to regenerate fire products with new algorithms. For this purpose, the processing facility has been designed to allow the generation of fire products from both ATSR-2 Level 0 data and ATSR-2 Level 1B data.

Product Description

The fire product gives for each hot spot detected, the following information:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Precise location in Latitude/longitude

The frame-based products are merged on a monthly basis.


The three algorithms give the following results:

  • Algorithm 1: (ATSR Saturation) gives good results. The hot spots distribution is coherent with the one obtained with AVHRR, DMSP and GOES data.
  • Algorithm 2: (lowering of the threshold to 308 K) does not introduce obvious false alarms and can be considered reliable.
  • Algorithm 3: Produces a lot of false alarms on water areas and need to be improved.
  • The fire distribution can be summarized as follow:
  • Permanent hot spots over ocean and desert area. Most of them are gas flares (Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Guinea, North Sea, Persian Gulf, Iran/Iraq, Algeria/Libya, Russia...)
  • Exceptional fire event in Indonesia (August/November 1997)
  • Savannah seasonal fires. Southern hemisphere (June-October), Northern hemisphere (November-May)
  • Other seasonal fires (Europe, Russia, southern Asia)

The user of the fire product should be aware of the algorithm limitations (e.g. coverage, cloud presence, atmospheric effects, bi-directionality of emissivity, fire temperature versus extension...).

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Figure 3

Figure 3 shows the ATSR-2 daily ascending coverage (nighttime).

Figure 4 and table 1 show the 1997 fire distribution bounded at the 75 latitude in the Northern Hemisphere. All daytime ascending frames have been discarded from the processing.

Table 1

Our results are consistent with those of Cahoon et al., (1992) and Arino and Melinotte, 1997-a and 1997-b.

Feedback from the forestry, (Calvin, 1997) and the atmospheric community, (Jenkins et al., 1997) confirm the interest for their own field of research for that kind of products. The main requests were first to extend the coverage and second to ensure the continuity of the service across the years.


The 5 years ATSR global archive provides, thanks to the excellence of the satellite and the instrument, a unique opportunity to derive a global multi-year fire atlas not corrupted by environmental effects.

This product will soon be available to the whole scientific community.


The ongoing validation activity is managed by Gerard Szejwach and carried out by the following people:

Alonso Federico, Boehm Viktor, Cahoon Don, Casanova Jose Luis, Chase Duncan, Chuvieco Emilio, Dennis Rona, Goldammer Johann, Gregoire Jean-Marie, Kasischke Eric, Langaas Sindre, Lavenu Francois, Lerthum Surat, Marsden Jackie, Minko Nickolay, Pilar Martin, Rabindran Shanti, Raisbeck Natalie, Robinson Jennifer, Royer Antoine, Setzer Alberto, Siegert Florian, Sifakis Nicolaos, Jose Pereira, Singh Ramesh, Steber Mike, Stocks Brian, Sukhinin Anatoly, Zhanqing Li.


Andrea, M.O., 1991: Biomass burning: its history, use and distribution and its impact on environmental quality and global change. Global biomass burning, 3-31, MIT press, Cambridge, editor, J. S. Levine.

Arino O. and Melinotte JM., 1995, Fire Index Atlas, Earth Observation Quarterly, 50, pp. 11-16

Arino O., JM. Melinotte, JM. Rosaz and E. Monjoux, 1997-a, ESA Fire Product, Proc., 7th ISPRS conf. on Physical Measurement and Signatures in Remote sensing, 7-11 April 1997, Courchevel, France.

Arino O. and JM. Melinotte, 1997-b: The 1993 Africa Fire Map, IJRS cover page, in press.

Cahoon Jr., D.R., Stocks B.J., Levine J.S., Cofer III W.R., and K.P. O’Neill, 1992: Seasonal distribution of African savanna fires. Nature, 359, 812-815.

Calvin M., 1997, The Southern Africa Fire Environment, Personal Communication.

Dozier, J., 1981: A method for satellite identification of surface temperature fields of subpixel resolution. Remote Sensing of the Environment, 11, 221-229.

Hao, W. M. and M-H. Liu, 1994: Spatial and temporal distribution of tropical biomass burning. global biogeochemical cycles, Vol. 8, No4, 495-503.

Jenkins, G. S., Mohr, K., Morris, V.R., and Arino, O., 1997, The Role of Convective Processes over the Zaire and Congo Basins to the Southern Hemispheric Ozone maximum. Journal of Geophysical Research, in press

Malingreau, J.-P., 1990, The contribution of remote sensing to the global monitoring of fires in tropical and subtropical ecosystems, Fire in the tropical Biota, Ecosystem Processes and global Challenges, edited by J.G. Goldammer (Berlin: springer-Verlag), pp. 337-399

Mason, 1981, Satellite Measurement of Sea-Surface Temperature, Doctorate Thesis, Univ. of Oxford.

Mutlow CT, DT Llewellyn-Jones, AM Zadovy, IJ Barton, Sea-surface temperature measurement by ATSR on the ERS-1 satellite: Early Result. JGR, 99, 22, 575-22, 588, 1994

RAL, 1995: SADIST-2 v200 Products, P. Bailey ER-TN-RAL-AT-2164, Ruth. Appleton Lab., 6 Sept. 1995 Release.

1997 World ATSR Fire Product:

O. Arino and JM. Rosaz

ESA/ESRIN, Directorate of Applications, Remote Sensing Exploitation Department

Via Galileo Galilei, CP-64, 00044 Frascati, Italy

Tel: 0039 06 94180564 E-mail:,

Figure 4

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