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Sci-Friday: Science for Alaska lecture series ends with Fire Landscapes from Space

Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 4:16 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The University of Alaska (UAF) Geophysical Institute’s 2021 Science for Alaska Lecture Series will conclude this month on the 9th with “Firewatch: Fire Landscapes from Air and Space.” This final lecture presented by Christine Waigl with the Alaska Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research’s (EPSCoR’s) Fire and Ice Project, and Jennifer Delamere, director of the Geographic Information Network of Alaska. The lecture will cover some of the ways scientists use remote sensing imagery to manage Alaskan wildfires.

“We are receiving data from 9 polar orbiter satellites. They’re flying over Alaska all the time, they see different parts of Alaska, they see different sizes of Alaska, you know, swaths - and we at UAF pull down a selection of that data and we process it in near-real time,” Said Delamere.

Delamere and her team are able to release usable satellite map imagery within 15 to 20 minutes of a given satellite overpass. This data can be used by organizations including the Alaska Fire Service and the National Weather Service to better analyze and control wildfires.

Delamere said, “They use it every day in their operations to determine where the new fire starts, has a fire grown, has it gotten more intense?”

Data from these satellites is also sent to researchers like Christine Waigl, who work to advance the technologies and methods that make this form of fire analysis possible, and to apply these methods to solving other problems.

“The other thing we are also doing is mapping the fuels. The Alaska current fuel map is not very good, and we are working on a better one. So, what kind of land cover is there? Is it black spruce which burns very well? It is birch which does not burn as readily? And then also mapping the effect of the fire afterwards -- so this whole gamut of before, during, and after the fire,” said Waigl.

This last lecture will be held via Zoom Tuesday, March 9th at 7:00 p.m. and will be shared live over the UAF and Geophysical Institute Facebook pages.

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