ECOSTRESS Data Incorporated Into New Wildfire Response Tool


NASA’s ECOSTRESS instrument captured ground-surface temperature data over southern Oregon’s Bootleg Fire
NASA’s ECOSTRESS instrument captured ground-surface temperature data over southern Oregon’s Bootleg Fire from July 7 to July 22. Areas in red – the hottest pixels detected – show the fire front, where resources are needed most. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The instrument on the International Space Station is uniquely positioned to provide wildfire responders with a high-resolution look at fire progression.

NASA’s ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) is aiding in the fight against fires in the Western U.S.

As of July 28, 2021, the size of the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon was more than 410,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire currently burning in the U.S. So far, some 400 buildings and more than 340 vehicles have been destroyed. Wildfire responders have managed to contain about 53% of the fire, and new data from ECOSTRESS is helping.

ECOSTRESS measures surface temperature from the vantage point of the International Space Station, and its ability to observe fires of the Northwest US often twice per day at a high spatial resolution (around 70 meters) makes it ideal for tracking fires. Researchers on the RADR-Fire team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have been experimenting with ECOSTRESS data as part of a new tool now being implemented for first responders like the U.S. Forest Service.

In the above visualization, ECOSTRESS is tracking the movement of the Bootleg Fire and identifying its proximity to critical infrastructure — areas in red represent the hottest pixels ECOSTRESS detected. The extreme heat in those areas indicates the fire front, or where resources are most needed.

The capabilities of ECOSTRESS are unique. Satellites that acquire data more frequently don’t have high-enough resolution to track the fine line of the fire front, and satellites with higher resolution than ECOSTRESS cross over the same area much less frequently (every 5 to 16 days).

Dixie Fire

NASA’s ECOSTRESS instrument captured ground-surface temperature data over northern California’s Dixie Fire
NASA’s ECOSTRESS instrument captured ground-surface temperature data over northern California’s Dixie Fire from July 15 to July 24. Areas in red – the hottest pixels detected – show the fire front, where resources are needed most. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s ECOSTRESS instrument captured ground-surface temperature data over northern California’s Dixie Fire from July 15 to July 24. Areas in red – the hottest pixels detected – show the fire front, where resources are needed most.Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

ECOSTRESS also captured data over Northern California’s Dixie Fire, which has doubled in size to more than 220,000 acres over the last few days. In the Dixie Fire data visualization above, the red areas show the hottest pixels – and fire movement – from July 15 to July 24. The most heavily affected areas are south of Lake Almanor in Plumas County. As of July 27, the Dixie Fire was 23% contained.

More than 7,000 personnel are involved in the wildfire response to the two fires. Although they have many tools in their arsenal, the use of spaceborne data like that provided by ECOSTRESS is still relatively new – and also serves as a good example of the versatility and real-world impact satellite data can provide.

More information about ECOSTRESS can be found at:

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August 1, 2021 2:23 am

Does the ECOSTRESS Data include tracking of the many Arsonists, as they move about?

Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
August 1, 2021 4:07 am

They are black lies matter and pantifa supporters, Faux Biden Admin says they are allowed to set fires anytime they want.

Richard Page
Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
August 1, 2021 12:12 pm

Interesting slant (and slightly o/t) to the reporting of wildfires in Turkey; while the BBC, CNN and other west-centric MSM are emphasizing the recent hot weather in Turkey and stating that the cause is still being investigated, Turkish authorities in other media have stated that the fires are the result of arson and they have one arsonist in custody. Apparently Turkey has had several years of fires being started by PKK separatists, who have claimed responsibility for them in the past, which isn’t being reported by any of the MSM usual suspects. Bias much!

Ron Long
August 1, 2021 3:23 am

Looks like something useful has been developed by NASA, although why it is 70 meter pixels is strange, as the old LandSat had a 60 meter thermal IR pixel size.

August 1, 2021 3:38 am

Even the name of it sounds a tad alarmist

Last edited 1 year ago by fretslider
August 1, 2021 4:05 am

Nice instrument for a wide range of surveillance purposes, love how they are calling it an “environmental” tool. Probably get a good bit more resolution with the right digital image processing software.

Peta of Newark
August 1, 2021 4:16 am

Methinks The Cavalry have arrived ‘a bit on the late side’

They should have been doing something to stop the fire starting in the first place.
Like trapping some water in the landscape and letting the forest close its canopy.

Has ANYBODY in this Modern World got the guts or where-with-all to actually tell them that or do anything about it


G Mawer
Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 1, 2021 1:58 pm

Lakes I get, but how do you “let” a forest close it’s canopy??

Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 1, 2021 6:29 pm

What youthinks is so stupid it doesn’t merit rebuttal.

August 1, 2021 5:56 am

Anyone familiar with this area? Look at the roughly 12 mile square parcel of land roughly beginning 20 miles west of Summer Lake. Sometime in the past it was logged but the timbers are just piled up in places giving the place a pockmarked appearance.,+OR+97640/@42.8235375,-121.3290597,11746m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x54c8049a063f0553:0x5769392a4a0ee371!8m2!3d42.9728819!4d-120.7777762

Reply to  Scissor
August 1, 2021 8:51 am

Some of the area was logged, the piles you are seeing was non-commercial timber left over after logging.. It was left with the idea that a bio-energy plant was soon to be built in the Lakeview area.

A good portion of the lodgepole pine forest was killed by mountain pine beetle 12 or more years ago. Lot of standing dead trees. At the time of the beetle kill timber prices were declined and no market for the trees which were in commercial stands.

Reply to  0leman
August 1, 2021 9:28 am


I noticed that the ceiling in this picture near there is made of beetle killed wood. Really beautiful in a way.

Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  Scissor
August 1, 2021 6:28 pm

Yes, Scissor, I know it well. The high density unmanaged F-WNF has been a tinderbox waiting for a megafire for years. For awhile in the 70’s and 80’s fire access roads were built and firebreaks constructed. A few clearcuts were made and a few cattle grazed in the openings.

But when Bill the Perv and Al the Braindead were elected, all that stopped. Knowledgeable citizens begged for fuel treatments, but those were rebuffed. Instead logging of any kind was halted. Various radical extremists made videos excoriating loggers and logging — with a bullseye on Lakeview, OR. [I’ve seen those videos posted here at WUWT! I know who did it. He’s a regular.] Lawsuits galore by oligarch-funded seditionists helped hamstring rational stewardship.

Fires 15 years ago were allowed to burn. The crown-scorched trees attracted pine bark beetles which irrupted the following year and spread across 300,000 acres of the F-WNF. It became a sea of red trees, lodgepole and ponderosa. Nothing was done. I went on tours led by the USFS, the Forest Superintendent and Regional Forester. They talked a good game. Said they didn’t want to “push the reset button” on Oregon forests.

But nothing was done. Some salvage, but LP pine is worthless even when green. The beetles carry blue stain fungus, and it’s actually the fungus that k*lls the trees. Blue stained ponderosa pine is nearly worthless. Fence boards are all it’s good for. It doesn’t even make good chips — chip board is not made of rotten wood.

No thinning, no piling and burning, no fuels management. Roads were closed, deliberately ripped so no motorized travel was possible. The cattle were removed. Flammable brush grew in the snag patches.

Then lightning struck, as it always does, and there was no way to access the ignition sites, except perhaps by smokejumpers or helicopters, but it’s basically a suicide mission to drop into a mega inferno. A few boys and girls with pulaskis can’t build an effective fireline. It takes bulldozers, hauled by semis on trailers, with fuel tanker trucks. But there are few if any roads any more, not where they’re needed. The decision was made to “block in” the fire, meaning let the whole thing burn to the edges, to private land, where the roads remain.

And so it goes. Another Oregon megafire. Ever since the Biscuit Fire (500,000 acs in 2002) in the Chetco, Oregon has been subject to numerous gigantic burns in old growth forests, on unmanaged Fed land.

No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot. It’s a Swampy thing, bureaucrats making political policy from thousands of miles away. Central Government overweening Hate America Firsters stepping on the neck of flyover country. It costs hundreds of $billions in funny money to do such destruction, but that has never stopped them.

August 1, 2021 6:14 am

Isn’t it easier to follow the smoke ?

Reply to  DMacKenzie
August 1, 2021 7:33 am

It certainly is in Amsterdam.

Citizen Smith
August 1, 2021 8:03 am

I’m not sure what Ecostress adds much to the arsenal of wildfire management tools. Spotter planes get a closer look and gather more detailed and timely info on local weather, fuel loads, road access, and terrain.

A couple Sundays ago a fire broke out about 7 miles south of Bend. I noticed the smoke at about 3:00pm. It was low and had just started. The first spotter planes flew over at about 3:15. There were 4 planes flying around the now larger plume by about 3:30. The first borade bomber flew over at about 4:00. The smoke was gone the next morning.

I suppose the space station could provide some data at night when planes don’t have enough light to get useful data. But that might be hours of interruption and from low angles.

I suspect Ecostress’s best wild fire related use is to get funding for the ISS.

FYI, the Bootleg fire was started by lightening. Most wild fires are caused by lightening. Hundreds can start in a single storm. Most go out on their own but some don’t.

BTW, as much as you love and admire Smokey the Bear, he is just another government propagandist spreading fake news. “Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires” is not true. “Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires” is only kind of true. Most forests fuel loads can be managed with logging economically. Law enforcement can prevent homeless camps which in addition to fire risk poach deer and leave huge messes.

Divert Ecostress funding to local use.

Mark Kaiser
August 1, 2021 12:16 pm

ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station: ECOSTRESS. How how much more obvious can you get with that acronym. Bet they were up all night putting that together.

“ECOsystem Spaceborne High Intensity Trash” works for me.

Seriously though, I can see the value of this kind of real-time data for fighting fires. As well, good historical data for dealing with the next fire.

August 1, 2021 1:22 pm

Doesn’t look like much of an improvement over NASA’s current FIRMS system;

The Bootleg Fire was lightning. The Dixie fire was a tree leaning up against a PG&E power line. The Tamarack Fire south of Tahoe was also lightning. Intentional arson occurs and when conditions are right can lead to bad fires but most arson is in relatively observed areas. Utility accidents often occur in more remote areas and can get a good headstart. Widespread lightning fires are the worst because fire fighting resources are instantly strained, which is why 4 million acres of CA burned last year. 10,000+ lightning strikes over a weekend will do that.

Reply to  BrianB
August 1, 2021 8:44 pm

We had one local lightning started wildfire near where I live in Utah. Lucky the location was bordered by lava on the south and west. There were roads to the location and there was a very quick response. It was adjacent to developed land and the crews were able to stop the fire before it took any structures. About 10 to 15 years ago the forest service had cleared dead standing 1 mile on the windward side and 1/2 mile down wind of the developments on Cedar Mountain. A remnant of the W presidency. This is Ponderosa Pine/Doug fir forests, and Ponderosa very fire resistant when there is no understory to get the fire up to the crown. There are areas visible from roads and atv trails where nothing is left but large Ponderosa pine with charred bark from previous fires and the stands are healthy.

We have been under fire restrictions in the national forest for all of last summer until this past Friday, no camp fires allowed. All restrictions were lifted due to the monsoon rains we have had throughout southern Utah the last month. BLM/Forest Service had even restricted the use of gas chainsaws, limiting my collection of firewood. I had been using a battery chainsaw to drop dry dead standing beetle kill trees and cut some rounds, but that is MUCH slower. Got a lot done this weekend with the GAS chainsaw after the restriction was lifted. 2 to 3 times faster. The gas has a much longer bar and, although heavier, much easier on my back since I don’t need to bend down to cut rounds.

michael hart
August 2, 2021 6:52 pm

Boy, how I would love to have the carbon footprint of someone looking down on Earth from a space station.

Has anyone ever done that calculation? I probably could do it myself, but I’m lazy.
(And no, Griff, if you’re reading, any comment that they only combust hydrogen in some launchers is just evasion. Most of that energy didn’t come from wind power.)

Timothy Meisner
August 8, 2021 4:32 am

I just require one multi-millionaire to hear out my plea for project funding

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