European satellites reveal global wildfires declining since 2003

  • Date: 04/01/21
  • Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS)

European satellite data show a generally decreasing trend since 2003, with 2020 one of the lowest years on record.

January to December 2020 global total wildfire carbon emissions
Global total estimated wildfire carbon emission for 1 January to 7 December 2020. CAMS data show a generally decreasing trend since 2003, with 2020 one of the lowest years on record. Credit: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, ECMWF.

2020 has been a year of extremes when it comes to wildfires. The Arctic and US saw record high levels of activity during the summer, whilst Canada and tropical Africa saw record lows. These lows have contributed to 2020 so far being one of the least active years since Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS*) records begin in 2003.

Every day, CAMS monitors wildfire activity around the world using satellite observations of fire radiative power (FRP) – a measure of the radiative heat output of the fires. The CAMS Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) then uses these satellite observations of the location and intensity of active wildfires to estimate emissions of a wide range of atmospheric pollutants.

In this article, we take a look at CAMS monitoring of fire activity over the last few months, covering the wildfire seasons in the western United States, central South America and tropical Africa.

GIF showing global fire activity
Fire activity around the world from August to November 2020, during the peak fire seasons of the western United States, central South America and southern tropical Africa. Credit: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, ECMWF. Download the full animation here.

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