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New rapid mapping technology informs Queensland fire management


Scientists from the Department of Environment and Science (DES) and the Joint Remote Sensing Research Program have collaborated to develop an improved method of mapping fire scars across Queensland using satellite imagery and machine learning. 

According to Science minister Meaghan Scanlon, Queensland’s diverse landscapes, vegetation and soil types combined with the effects of cloud, smoke and other landscape dynamics made it challenging to accurately map burned areas using satellite imagery. 

“This new methodology uses the European Space Agency’s high frequency Sentinel-2 satellite imagery combined with machine learning and specialised operational mapping technology to produce high quality state-wide maps of areas impacted by fire every month,” Scanlon said. 

“With two identical satellites in orbit, the Sentinel-2 missions captures imagery for all parts of Queensland every five days, meaning the regularity of the monitoring will be frequent enough to capture most fires as they occur, providing a resource that will complement active fire maps.”” 

This method builds on previous work, which mapped Queensland’s fire history using Landsat satellite imagery. 

“The new fire scar maps detail the extent and changes in burnt areas in a way that can be easily used by land managers and emergency management agencies, such as the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service, to improve future fire planning and management activities,” Scanlon said. 

“Understanding exactly where and when a fire has occurred will help us to improve our predictive fire modelling capabilities, assist in the development of planned burn or hazard reduction programs, and allow us to monitor the ecological impacts of fire on biodiversity, land condition, water and air quality, and better quantify our greenhouse gas emissions.” 

The new DES product has already proven to be an important tool for QFES, according to QFES commissioner Greg Leach. 

“This tool enhances QFES’ predictive services capability in the generation of bushfire intelligence and mitigation strategies,” Leach said. 

“It is a key component of QFES’ fire history data set which is used to inform our fire modelling technology and predictions as they occur by considering the available fuel on that landscape for the fire to consume. 

“Knowing what areas have burnt previously also provides vital hazard reduction burn considerations as we work with our partners, including the community, to mitigate the risk of bushfires.” 

Fire scar maps will be delivered monthly and are publicly available through the Queensland government’s Open Data portal and the North Australian Fire Information portal. 

For more information, click here. 

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