The Fire Light Detection Algorithm (FiLDA) uses data collected from sensors mounted on a satellite to monitor fires around North America. The tool can help identify the location of a fire and its emissions and also inform those near the fire on its direction and ferocity. 

The FiLDA was developed by Jun Wang, the James E. Ashton Professor in Engineering and ITI assistant director. Wang holds an appointment as professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at the University of Iowa College of Engineering. Wang also directs the Atmospheric and Environmental Research Lab, which puts the FiLDA to use in its research. 

How it Works

Sensors on a satellite gather data on fires in cloud-free conditions. This data includes the fire burn area, fire radiative power, subpixel fire temperature and area, and day-time smoke plume height at the fire source region. While all these measurements are important, measuring fire radiative power can give detailed insight to the mass, or fuel, consumed by the fire, leading to an estimation of how much CO2 is being emitted. 

From this gathered data, emission levels and properties can be identified and the satellite can aid in accurate surveillance of the fire. Available on the Earth System Modeling Complex (ESMC) website is a map which gives daily updated information on fires in North America. 

Fire Light Detection Algorithm Map

The Next Frontier in Remote Sensing of Fires

The next developmental steps in this field of technology include achieving the ability to determine the phase of a fire and the fire combustion efficiency, and understanding how oxygen plays a role in these processes.

This information can help researchers determine whether a fire is active and flaming or reducing and smoldering, a key differentiation in how personnel respond. A fire smolders when fuel sources like wood and vegetation are inconsistent, producing incomplete oxidized products, leading to the waning of the fire. If the fuel source is consistent and the fire has a steady cycle of oxidation, the combustion process will lead to the flaming and expansion of the fire.

Identifying from a satellite whether a fire is flaming or smoldering is difficult due to the variance of activity within a large fire. From a satellite, only flaming fires emit visible radiation.

forest fire
Jun Wang

Jun Wang

Wang with AER Students


FILDA Webpage

FILDA Resources

Earth Observatory Article

News About FiLDA