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DigitalGlobes`s WorldView tracks Canada`s devastating forest fire from space

by Pubali Mukherjee

A devastating forest fire destroyed thousands of acres of lands in Fort McMurray, Alberta municipality Canada in May 2016 .On May 1St  2016 the wildfire began southwest of Fort McMurray Alberta. On May 3rd  2016 the fire swept through the community destroying approximately 2400 homes and buildings. The fire was declared to be under control on July 5th, 2016. It has been reported to be the most devastating natural disaster in the history of Canada, resulting to damage worth over 9 million dollars, prior to this the last such disaster was the flood of 2013 which caused damage worth 1.8 billion dollars. DigitalGlobe`s(DG) Firstlook team started acquiring satellite images of the forest fire to track the fire from space. The fire resulted into formation of Pyrocummulus cloud (clouds formed due to heat and fire, they can grow in size and produce lightening and start another fire) which eventually added to the risk. The locality was evacuated to minimize loss of lives. DigitalGlobe used its extended satellite constellation to track the fire and DG`s WorldView-3 is equipped with enhanced SWIR bands which helped to image the forest fire with spectacular spatial granularity by penetrating through smoke. This helped to identify the burning hotspots and help supress the fire with strategic planning. Estimated damage reported that around 1600 structures were lost. Scientists related this incident with climate change leading to increased temperatures which is highly unlikely in the region.

Through IR imagery of DG`s satellites one can see the healthy vegetation in bright red colours and burnt/dead vegetation in dark colours.

           Image courtesy: DigitalGlobe

Before the fire ,healthy vegetation can be seen in dark red colour and after  the vegetation  the burned areas can be seen in dark colour. These images of the forest fire in Alberta, Canada  were captured by DigitalGlobe constellation.

The image above showing healthy vegetation in bright red colour was captured by DG`s WorldView-2 satellite on May 29th 2015 and the image showing burned areas in dark colour was captured by the same satellite on May 5th in 2016.(Image Courtesy: DigitalGlobe)

Images captured by WorldView-3 satellite .Right side image is a false coloured image ,purple areas indicate healthy vegetation ,yellow areas indicate burned by fire and bight spots where the ones actively burning

The above image was captured by WorldView-3 on May 5th with IR colouration to increase the clarity of the smoke and flames of the fire.


SATPALDA is a privately owned company and a leading provider of satellite imagery and GeoSpatial services to the user community. Established in 2002, SATPALDA has successfully completed wide range of photogrammetric and Remote Sensing Projects.

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