One-minute data from UW helps NASA detect wildfires faster

September 28, 2022 | Jean Phillips

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Space Science and Engineering Center is providing ultra-low-latency satellite data – within 60 seconds of observation – to NASA as part of a push for timelier tracking and monitoring of wildfires.

Active fires in the U.S and Canada on Sept. 27, 2022 as indicated by NOAA-20’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite.
SSEC is providing low latency data to NASA to support earlier wildfire detection. Credit: NASA/FIRMS US/Canada

SSEC Distinguished Scientist Liam Gumley is leading the program at UW–Madison. “We’ve refined our ability to obtain data directly from the satellite and receive it on the ground, a process known as direct broadcast,” says Gumley. “Now, from Earth observation to wildfire detection is less than 60 seconds.”

Satellite data for this project are received via a specialized satellite ground station on the UW–Madison campus and at four other ground stations across the U.S.

Liam Gumley, distinguished scientist at UW–Madison, is leading a program to provide one-minute data to NASA in order to detect wildfires faster. Credit: SSEC, UW–Madison

These low-latency data from U.S. Earth observation satellites are a new addition to the NASA Fire Information for Resource Management System. FIRMS was developed by NASA for providing satellite-based detections of active fires in the U.S. and Canada. Once a fire is detected, NASA can coordinate with decision makers at other agencies to respond to, and continuously monitor, the fire and inform the public.

An expert in satellite data, including algorithm development and real-time data receiving and processing, Gumley has been on the leading edge of getting satellite-derived information to those who need it sooner.

Read more about fire detection on NASA’s website.