In order to better prepare for and keep an eye on any wildfires in the state of California, the state’s fire authorities will be able to map every single tree in the state using a brand new cutting-edge satellite imaging tool.
Scientists have been brainstorming new and better ways to combat the catastrophic fires that have been typical of the last few fire seasons in California’s forests.
One initiative from the startup Salo Sciences, called the California Forest Observatory (CFO), uses satellites and artificial intelligence to create a map covered in small green points.
This is one of the most detailed satellite photographs of the earth’s surface that is currently accessible, as each of these spots represents a genuine tree and the picture as a whole shows one of the earth’s forests.
Using information such as wind speed and direction, canopy height, and ground vegetation cover, wildfire officials will be able to predict and plan where fires are starting, where they might be headed, and how severe they might become as a result of this.
These images are produced by the CFO using a collection of one hundred bread-loaf-sized satellite cameras that are operated by a commercial firm named Planet. Planet was developed by NASA scientists.
They act in tandem like a barcode scanner of our planet’s surface as they spin in a line around the earth.
They capture photos at a resolution of approximately three meters per pixel, which is significantly higher than the resolution captured by larger and more established satellites.
After that, the data from the satellites and the lidar, which is a laser technology that gathers information and is installed on an airplane, are combined and fed into an algorithm that uses deep learning to estimate things like the height of trees.
According to David Marvin, co-founder and CEO of Salo Sciences, there is nothing on Earth that is similar to it, and the traditional method of using lidar, which is mounted on a low-flying aircraft, is a very slow and expensive process. Salo Sciences has developed a new method that is faster and less expensive.
A visit to Sequoia National Park will teach you that the trees in the forests of California have adapted over time to be able to survive frequent fires, and that certain species of trees, such as the giant sequoia, in fact require fire in order to stay healthy.
The fact of the matter is that fire authorities in California became so skilled at quickly extinguishing brush fires that, over time, the smaller vegetation growing between the trees, which would normally burn quickly and at low temperatures, began to grow larger and live on.
This was a result of the fact that the fire authorities became so good at quickly extinguishing brush fires.
These fires that now race through these masses of small vegetation can damage even the trees that have evolved to protect themselves from fire as a result of climate change, which has made the summers in California hotter and drier.
According to David Martin, who was interviewed by Fast Company, “If these fires didn’t have continuously dense fuels to burn, it would be much more difficult for them to get out of control.”
“So this is what we initially recognized as a significant issue. What we wanted to focus on was answering the question, “How can we go about identifying the areas to begin treating and clearing out these overgrown forests?”
As a result of the CFO being updated at the conclusion of each fire season, and sometimes even more frequently, these teeny-tiny tinderboxes will be discovered much more quickly, which will prevent a simple brushfire from becoming a raging inferno.