Mapping ‘Hell on Earth’

June 2, 2016  - By 0 Comments

A mapping feature from GPS World magazine’s June issue.

STILL BURNING: This false-color image shows burned areas in yellow and healthy vegetation in purple. The bright spots are where the fire was actively burning when the image was taken.

STILL BURNING: This false-color image shows burned areas in yellow and healthy vegetation in purple. The bright spots are where the fire was actively burning when the image was taken. (Image courtesy of DigitalGlobe, © 2016)

On May 1, a wildfire ignited southwest of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. At first, wildfire MWF-009 seemed like others residents had experienced — smoke and haze, but no real danger. Two days later, the winds shifted.

The fire swept through Fort McMurray, destroying more than 1,600 homes and buildings and forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history.

People described it as hell on Earth, comparing the disaster to movies, war, and the apocalypse. By the end of the week, the fire had grown to more than 101,000 hectares, significantly larger than the city of Calgary.

BURN SCAR: On May 4, the Landsat 7 satellite’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus acquired this false-color image combining shortwave infrared, near infrared and green light (bands 5-4-2). Near- and short-wave infrared help penetrate clouds and smoke to reveal hot spots of fire (red), smoke (white) and burned areas (brown).

BURN SCAR: On May 4, the Landsat 7 satellite’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus acquired this false-color image combining shortwave infrared, near infrared and green light (bands 5-4-2). Near- and short-wave infrared help penetrate clouds and smoke to reveal hot spots of fire (red), smoke (white) and burned areas (brown).

The entire city population of 88,000 evacuated in a rush, many through falling embers from wildfires beside roadways.

On May 5, DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite (WV-3) peered through smoke using shortwave infrared to take the image on the left. GIS analysts can also measure the intensity of the fire using the image.

As of press time, the fires continue to spread across northeast Alberta, impacting Canada’s oil sand operations, and into the neighboring province of Saskatchewan.

The wildfire may become the most costly disaster in Canadian history.

Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

Post a Comment