GFMC: Bush and Forest Fires in Australia, 20 October  2000

Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

20 October 2000

The Satellite Remote Sensing Services Department of Land Administration (DOLA) routinely evaluates the NOAA AVHRR satellite sensor to detect and locate vegetation fires and high-temperature events. In Australia hot events depicted by the satellite can represent wildfires or prescribed fires as well as industrial activities (e.g., gas flares, smelters) and hot surfaces (e.g., rocks heated by solar radiation during the daytime overpasses of the satellite). Thus, DOLA displays two products of hot spot maps: the automatically generated high-temperature event maps (which include false alarms) and the manually generated fire maps. All hotspot locations are geo-referenced and where required as Australian Map Grid. On some days up to four NOAA-AVHRR passes are used to identify hot events.

The manual method (human operator) provides greater accuracy however it takes longer. Thus, the issue of the manually generated fire maps is delayed (not real-time). Hot spots are located using NOAA-AVHRR channel 3 on early morning (0050-0340hrs) and mid morning (0450-0630hrs) images.

click here to enlarge (56 KB)

Fire Detection Map for Australia for 13 October 2000 overlaid on a pan-Australian vegetation cover map.
Source fire coordinates: Satellite Remote Sensing Services Department of Land Administration (DOLA)
Source of vegetation and fuel type map: Luke and McArthur (1977)
(Please take into account, that this presentation mainly represents fire events from Western Australia and Northern Territories)


A new TOMS Global Aerosol Hot Spots Page provides screened close-ups of regions with active fires and smoke emissions.

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15 October 2000 click here to enlarge (80 KB)
16 October 2000 click here to enlarge (80 KB)
17 October 2000 click here to enlarge (80 KB)
18 October 2000

Smoke over Australia, on 15-18 October 2000
NOTE: The surface background image used here is NOT part of the TOMS aerosol index retrieval.
(Source: TOMS Global Aerosol Hot Spots Page)


Huge smoke plume stretches across Australia
AUSTRALIA, October 19, 2000

SYDNEY – A massive plume of smoke stretching across Australia from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific is forcing outback pollution levels to soar to above those recorded in the country’s cities, Australian scientists said yesterday.  Bushfires dotted across the remote Kimberley district of northwest Australia have fuelled the vast smoke plume, which has raised outback pollution levels to more than 10 times the normal level. The smoke plume, which stretches diagonally across Australia from the northwest to southeast, rises 10,000 metres (32,800 feet) above sea level and is visible on satellite images.
The Australian government’s scientific body said above average rainfall during the outback wet season between November 1999 and April 2000, which caused widespread flooding, led to rapid vegetation growth in the usually barren inland areas. The growth, especially grasslands used by Australia’s huge outback cattle properties, provided fuel for bushfires which have been burning for the past month.
Australia’s populated east coast is bracing for a horror bushfire season this southern hemisphere summer with hundreds of fires already scorching large tracts of land in three states, threatening homes and an oil refinery in Sydney. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) (website:  warned that the smoke plume stretching across Australia could start to adversely affect agriculture by altering outback climatic conditions.

(Source: PlanetArk)


The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is the National Meteorological Service for Australia and provides essential meteorological services to all sectors of the Australian community.

Northern Territory Fire Danger
High over the northwest Top End.

Western Australia Fire Danger
Town of Port Hedland – Very High
Shire of Roebourne – Very High
Shire of Ashburton -Very High
Shire of East Pilbara – Very High
Kimberley – Moderate – High


Australasian Fire Authorities Council
The home page of the Australasian Fire Authorities Council coordinates the diverse range of activities of the different australian agencies concerned about fire.
The firebreak newsletter provides a very extensive homepage with information about fire fighting in Australia, downloadable java scripts for calculating fire weather and various links to related sites
The Department of Natural Resources and Environment in Victoria
The Department offers a very comprehensive web site with information on fire management. In their web site current reports are provided with statistics on the fire season. Extensive background information is included along with several links to related web sites.
Satellite Remote Sensing Services Department of Land Administration (DOLA)
The Satellite Remote Sensing Services (SRSS) of the Department of Land Administration provides near real time hot spot detection and burned scar mapping for western Australia. In the Firewatch project the SRSS detects hotspots throughout Western Australia using the thermal channel of the NOAA AVHRR sensor on a daily basis.

For more informations on Australia go to the IFFN country files.


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