University Of Calgary Professor Uses Satellite Data To Predict Forest Fires

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Satellite imagery shows how quickly the Fort McMurray fire progressed. | NASA EOSDIS

CALGARY — A University of Calgary professor hopes his research will help firefighters spring into action more quickly when forest fires strike in remote areas.

Quazi Hassan, who teaches geomatics engineering, says there are some areas where there are no weather stations or forestry staff to monitor conditions that could lead to a wildfire.

So Hassan has developed models using freely available data downloaded from a NASA satellite that help predict danger conditions over periods of up to eight days.

Tracking surface temperature, vegetation

Some of the variables the models track include water vapour in the atmosphere that could fall as rain, surface temperature and how green the vegetation is.

Hassan began the project in 2011 with support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the funding has been renewed for another five years.

Hassan focused on flooding early in his career — a problem he experienced first-hand when he lived in Bangladesh.

But he switched gears to wildfires when he came to Canada in 2003 and saw how critical of an issue they are in this country.

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Fort McMurray Wildfire (May 2016)
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