Forest Fire Emergency in Ethiopia: 10 March 2000

Forest Fire Emergency in Ethiopia

10 March 2000, 10:00 GMT

The update information by satellite sensors is provided by imageries of the U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), and NOAA / National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NOAA/NESDIS).

click to enlarge (1.2 MB)

Fig.1. Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) image (resolution: 1 km) from NOAA-14 (afternoon satellite) for 9 March 2000. Note from analysts: The ground in that region can be very hot due to intense solar heating. The larger red areas in the image are probably representing heated soil and rock surfaces. However, the smaller, brighter redspots may be small fires. There appear to be no large fires, and little if any smoke is visible.

8 March 2000, click to enlarge (677 KB) 9 March 2000, click to enlarge (345 KB)

Fig.2-3 DMSP scenes of East Africa, 8 and 9 March 2000.
(upper left corner 20°N, 22°E lower right corner 0°N, 50°E
(source: DMSP)

9 March 2000, click to enlarge (20 KB) 9 March 2000, click to enlarge (70  KB)

Fig.4-5 DMSP closeup scenes of the Bale region and Borana, 9 March 2000. The red dots represent active fires.
Land signature: brown; water: blue; clouds: grey; stable lights (cities): cyan.
(upper left corner 9°N, 38°E lower right corner 5°N, 42°E)
(source: DMSP)

Drought in the Horn of Africa

Severe drought has developed in the Horn of Africa and adjacent regions in the past three months, based on analysis of AVHRR data. This drought has caused intensive vegetation stress and high risk of fire development, the dynamics of which since January 2000 is shown on the attached image. The worst drought-affected areas, especially in March, are in southern and eastern Ethiopia, western Somalia, northern Kenya and adjacent regions of Tanzania, Uganda and southern Sudan. The minor agricultural season in Ethiopia (March-May) is currently at the great risk of failure. It is expected that a large number of people in the region will be affected by food shortages (Prepared 9 March 2000 by Felix Kogan, NOAA/NESDIS Office of Research and Applications).

Among many factors affecting fire danger, the amount of moisture in vegetation and ambient temperature set conditions for fire development. Limited moisture supply and high temperatures lead to vegetation stress and deterioration of vegetation health. Therefore, estimated intensity and duration of vegetation stress can be used as a proxy for assessment of fire potential and danger.

Satellite-based Indices
The experimental fire product is based on assessment of vegetation stress derived from a new NESDIS drought product. This product combines the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and thermal data from AVHRR sensor into indices, which estimate numerically an entire range of vegetation condition (vegetation health) from extreme stress (zero) to favorable (100). Reduction of the indices below 35 indicates environmental stress when vegetation loses greenness and vigor.

Product Interpretation
Area, intensity, and duration of vegetation stress, fire potential and danger can be estimated from the following color-coded maps. Vegetation Health map provides information on vegetation condition estimated from both Moisture and Thermal conditions, which are shown on the corresponding maps. Area of deteriorated vegetation health is delineated by red and brown color. This condition normally results from coincidence of both moisture and thermal stress. However, some areas experience only thermal stress, while moisture conditions are fair (green) and favorable (blue) or vice versa. Stressful conditions related to only one of the indicators provide some warning, especially if stress is moisture-related.

click to enlarge (71 KB)

Fig.6. Vegetation stress and fire risk at the Horn of Africa for the period 9 January to 5 March 2000.

Ethiopia Current Fire Weather Situation and Forecast

6 Day 14h00 Forecast Ethiopia Region Addis Abba Area Day Temp (C) Hum (%) W Dir WSpd (km/h) Bar (Hpa) FDI Tendency Wed 8 31 38 W 8 1011 58 Yellow – Thu 9 32 36 NNW 10 1013 62 Orange – Fri 10 33 34 NE 15 1012 68 Orange – Sat 11 32 38 NE 14 1009 64 Orange – Sun 12 33 36 NW 7 1007 60 Orange – Mon 13 30 45 SW 10 1006 56 Yellow

Currently there is a 5880gpm high over central Ethiopia and although a few isolated thundershowers may occur in the south they will fall flat in the evening.With topical movement still active off the South-African coast it will take some time for the ITCZ to move north and establish itself for the season. Only on day 6 it seems as if the high makes way for better thundershower/shower conditions in the south. Source: The exact source of this fire-weather information received from South Africa will be provided on 10 March 2000.

PlanetArk posted the following article today:

Ethiopia to battle fierce forest fire by air (10 March , 2000)
ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia said yesterday an air operation to tackle a raging forest fire in the south of the country would start tomorrow with the assistance of South African firefighters. The blaze has already destroyed 70,000 hectares of forest and coffee plantations in the last three weeks. Conservationists say it is approaching the Bale National Park, home to some of Africa’s rarest mammals. South Africa has sent eight firefighters already and 22 more are expected to arrive tomorrow, Tamirue Habte of the ministry of agriculture told Reuters. The team will bombard the fire with water and chemicals from two Ethiopian helicopters. The firefighters will also be winched down to spray the flames from special backpacks. South Africa would also provide a spotter plane and would contribute to the $35,000 costs of the first phase of the operation, Tamirue said. Around 70,000 soldiers, farmers and university students have already been mobilised to tackle the fire on the ground. The fires are thought to have been started by farmers clearing forest for cultivation, or honey collectors smoking out bees in areas dried out by drought. Hot, gusty winds have helped the fires take hold.

For further information please refer also to the earlier reports this and last week at the “Current Significant Fire Events” page.

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