September 4, 2013 - Two recent images from the Landsat 8 satellite compare land conditions in the vicinity of Yosemite National Park, California, before (August 15) and during the Rim Fire (August 31). Started on August 17, the Rim Fire had burned over 219,000 acres by August 31 (an area nearly 15 times the size of Manhattan Island). Both images are false-colored using bands 6, 5, 4 to allow identification of critical vegetation and fuels information that will help firefighters and emergency managers. In the images fire appears bright red, vegetation is green, smoke is blue, clouds are white, and bare ground is tan-colored.
The USGS supports both the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service wildfire response. Throughout the fire season, USGS regularly uploads images for wildfires from several satellites to the Hazard Data Distribution System. These remotely sensed data are used by wildfire responders to map potential risks to communities and determine immediate post-fire effects. So far in 2013, 2,156 images have been distributed for wildfires.
The USGS helps staff the Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination Group (GeoMAC). The GeoMAC viewer is a mapping application that allows fire managers and the public to access online maps of current fire locations and fire perimeters. Currently, for 2013, GeoMAC is maintaining up-to-date perimeter information for 620 wildfires across the United States.
Landsat is a joint effort of both USGS and NASA. Landsat images are unique in that they provide complete global coverage, they are available for free, and they span more than 41 years of continuous earth observation.
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