Gran Canaria Wildfires

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In August 2019 parts of Gran Canaria, one of Spain's Canary Islands, were devastated by two large wildfires.

Date & Time
17 August 2019 14:45 UTC–20 August 09:30 UTC
Meteosat-11, Sentinel-3, Terra
Infrared, 1.6 µm (S5), 0.86 µm (S3) and 0.65 µm (S2), 0.4–1.02 µm, True Color

By William Straka III (CIMSS), Jose Prieto (EUMETSAT) and HansPeter Roesli (Switzerland)

On 10 August at least 1,500 hectares of field and low forest burned in Artenara. Days later, on the afternoon of 17 August, another fire started near the town of Tejeda, which quickly grew into a major wildfire.

Around about 9,000 people had to flee their homes as firefighters tried to contain the inferno. Several towns were threatened by the out-of-control and vast blaze, as it spread towards a national park and an area popular with holidaymakers on the Spanish island. It ripped through at least 1,000 hectares in the mountains. In some areas, the flames were so high that water-dropping planes were unable to operate.

The Meteosat-11 satellite using Band 4, which is the traditional IR fire band with a central wavelength of 3.9 2μm, observed the initial fire on 17 August (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1
Figure 1: Meteosat-11 IR, 17 August 15:15 UTC

The animated gif every 30 minutes from 14:45 UTC on 17 August to 23:55 UTC on 18 August (Figure 2), shows how the fire evolved.

Figure 2: Meteosat-11 IR animation every 30 minutes, 14:45 UTC on 17 August 14:45 UTC to 18 August 23:55 UTC

The Meteosat-11 infrared animation in Figure 3 shows the fire's extent on 18 August until it was finally extinguished on 20 August.

Figure 3: Meteosat-11 infrared, 18 August 06:00 UTC–20 August 02:30 UTC

Sentinel-3B also observed the region with the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) and Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI). Although, SLSTR is primarily used for global sea and land-surface temperatures, it does have visible channels to help with NDVI and cloud clearing.

Using the 1.6 µm (S5), 0.86 µm (S3) and 0.65 µm (S2) channels it is possible get an idea of the location of the burned area (Figure 4).

Figure 4
Figure 4: Sentinel-3B SLSTR, 19 August 11:19 UTC

The Ocean and Land Colour Instrument has 21 distinct bands in the 0.4–1.02 µm spectral region (or 400–1020 nm) tuned to specific ocean colour, vegetation and atmospheric correction measurement requirements. Using these channels, it is possible to create a pseudo-natural colour RGB to see the smoke more easily (Figure 5).

Figure 5
Figure 5: Sentinel-3B OLCI RGB, 19 August 11:19 UTC

The MODIS view of Gran Canaria on its morning pass (09:30 UTC) on 20 August (Figure 6), shows there were still two plumes of smoke from the smouldering fires.

Figure 6
Figure 6: Terra MODIS True Color RGB, 20 August 09:30 UTC
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