In the midst of a record-breaking heatwave gripping Portugal, a wildfire broke out on August 5th south of Odemira in the Alentejo region, adding to the ongoing challenges that southern European countries have faced with extreme temperatures and widespread fires.
An alarming image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite mission on August 7th reveals the extent of the fire. The image, shown in true color, provides a clear view of the smoke billowing from the fire and being swept towards the Atlantic.
The vivid display is further intensified by the overlay of the satellite instrument’s shortwave infrared signal, which has been used to highlight the emitting heat source.
“The image has been overlaid with satellite instrument’s shortwave infrared signal to highlight the emitting heat source, which can be linked, in this case, to the active fire front,” explains the detailed analysis accompanying the image.
The situation on the ground is equally concerning. Hundreds of firefighters are battling the blaze, yet the fire continues to spread southwards towards the Algarve, a popular tourist destination. Local news reports emphasize the urgent efforts to contain the fire, underscoring the complexity of the situation.
Adding to the regional distress, other southern European countries have also been grappling with intense heat and fire outbreaks. The World Meteorological Organization issued a concerning statement, declaring that “July 2023 is likely to have been the hottest month on record.”
This image of the wildfire in Portugal, provided by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, is part of a larger effort to monitor changes on Earth’s surface. The mission comprises two identical satellites, each carrying an innovative wide swath high-resolution multispectral imager with 13 spectral bands.
This technology has proven crucial for keeping track of changes in land and vegetation, and now, it’s offering a real-time window into the heart of one of Portugal’s most pressing challenges.
The ongoing crisis underscores the delicate balance between human activity, meteorological patterns, and the natural environment. With this Portugal wildfire incident as a stark example, countries around the world are being reminded of the urgent need to address climate change and to develop strategies for managing extreme weather events.
The situation in Portugal continues to unfold, with international attention focused on efforts to combat both the immediate fire and the broader implications of our rapidly changing climate.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission is part of the European Union’s Copernicus Program, which is coordinated and managed by the European Commission in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), the EU Member States, and various other entities.
The mission is specifically designed to deliver detailed images of Earth’s surface, focusing on monitoring vegetation, soil and water cover, inland waterways, and coastal areas.
Here’s a more in-depth look at the Sentinel-2 mission:
The mission consists of a constellation of two identical satellites, Sentinel-2A and Sentinel-2B, launched in 2015 and 2017 respectively. They orbit the Earth at an altitude of approximately 786 kilometers.
Each satellite carries a Multispectral Instrument (MSI) that can capture images in 13 spectral bands. The spectral range includes visible light, near-infrared, and shortwave infrared wavelengths. This enables the mission to provide clear and accurate observations in various weather conditions and over different landscapes.
The spatial resolution of the images ranges from 10 meters to 60 meters, depending on the spectral band. The two-satellite constellation ensures a global revisit time of just five days at the equator, providing regular and consistent monitoring.
The data from the Sentinel-2 mission have numerous applications, including agriculture (monitoring crop growth and assessing vegetation health), forestry (such as deforestation detection), disaster management (such as flood monitoring), and environmental monitoring (like tracking land cover changes).
The data collected by the Sentinel-2 mission are made available to the public and are widely used by researchers, policymakers, and industries. The open data policy promotes innovation and supports various commercial and non-commercial applications.
Sentinel-2 works in conjunction with other Sentinel missions and various international satellite programs, providing complementary data that enrich the overall understanding of Earth’s environment and how it is changing.
By offering detailed observations of land use and land cover changes, the mission contributes vital information to climate change studies. Its data support the monitoring of factors such as desertification, glacial retreat, and urban expansion.
The innovative technology used in the Sentinel-2 mission allows for the monitoring of specific changes in Earth’s surface, such as the health of plant life through the detection of chlorophyll content. These advancements have led to more precise and actionable insights.
The success of the Sentinel-2 mission has led to plans for the continuation and expansion of the program, with future satellites being considered to ensure long-term monitoring.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission is an essential part of the global effort to observe and understand the Earth’s environment. Its contributions extend beyond pure science, supporting decision-making in various sectors like agriculture, urban planning, and emergency response.
By providing accurate, timely, and accessible data, the mission helps in tackling some of the most pressing environmental and societal challenges of our time.