Wildfires swept Southern Europe in summer 2021

Monitoring wildfires with LSA SAF products

Rural fires are common events in ecosystems characterized by oscillations between rainy and drought periods, which inevitably lead to high levels of vegetation stress and to the accumulation of fuels during the dry phase. They have been present every year in the Mediterranean, to some extent as important elements of a functioning of ecosystem.  But in summer 2021 many wildfires broke out over Mediterranean Europe after a long period of warm and dry weather and have destroyed excessive forest areas and other ecosystems, which will take years to recover (https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/IB_Europe_Wildfires13082021.pdf).

The recently published report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_Full_Report.pdf] confirmed that changes in climate are the underlying causes of the prolonged droughts and record-breaking heatwaves that fuel the wildfires across the Europe region. Consequently, fire risk map and fire monitoring with LSA SAF products are becoming increasingly important.

As seen on Fig. 1, which presents Fire Risk Map version 2 (FRMv2, LSA-504.2) [https://landsaf.ipma.pt/en/products/fire-products/frmv2/], meteorological fire danger for the next 24 hours in the beginning of August 2021 was mostly high to extreme in Southern, South Eastern and South Western Europe. Indeed in these days multiple fires broke out in this area.

Figure 1 – Animation of daily fire risk classes for Mediterranean Europe at the beginning of August 2021, using the FRMv2 product. Green, yellow, orange, light red and dark red correspond to low, moderate, high, very high and extreme risk of fire for the next 24 hours.


Information on the location, timing and fire radiative power output of landscape fires detected every 15 minutes is presented with LSA SAF Fire Radiative Power Pixel (FRP Pixel, LSA-502) [https://landsaf.ipma.pt/en/products/fire-products/frppixel/] product. Maximum monthly fire pixels with focus on Italy for summer months are animated in Fig. 2, whereas maximum daily fire pixels with deeper focus on Southern Italy for the beginning of August 2021 are animated in Fig. 3. We can observe that in Sicily many fires broke out already in June, while in parts of Southern Italy most fires broke out in July and August.

Figure 2 - Animation of monthly maximum fire radiative power June-August 2021, expressed in Mega Watts, using FRPPIXEL product. Maximum FRP for each pixel is selected as maximum value of FRP within a month.

Figure 3 - Animation of daily maximum fire radiative power from 5th until 7th of August 2021, expressed in Mega Watts, using FRPPIXEL product. Maximum FRP for each pixel is selected as maximum value of FRP within a day.

Additionally Fig. 4 presents Sentinel-2 clip of Short Wave Infra-Red (SWIR) measurements for 5th and 7th August of 2021 for Southern Italy. The clip was prepared with Sentinel Hub EO Browser [https://apps.sentinel-hub.com/eo-browser/] and shows burned area in dark brown, which is seen on 7th August and matches burned area on Fig. 3. With Sentinel-2 we get high spatial resolution of desired area. However, on this account the data temporal resolution is lower (few days). Therefore the LSA SAF FRP Pixel product with high temporal resolution and Sentinel-2 data with high spatial resolution complement well and can give us detailed information about fire location and strength. With upcoming EUMETSAT Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) satellites the data will have better spatial, temporal & radiometric resolution, so even smaller fires will be detected. [https://www.eumetsat.int/meteosat-third-generation].

Figure 4 - Animation of Sentinel-2 SWIR band over Southern Italy for 5th and 7th of August 2021. Dark brown shows burned areas.