24 May 2008

New map shows how much of earth is scorched

Thaindian News - May 23rd, 2008 - 3:02
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London, May 23 (IANS) A geographer has designed the first ever map showing how fires have scorched the earth every year since the turn of the millennium. The map reveals that between 3.5 and 4.5 million square km of vegetation burns every year — or an area larger than the size of India.

The information is vital for scientists and agencies involved in monitoring global warming, measuring atmospheric pollutants, managing forests and controlling fires.

Kevin Tansey of University of Leicester said: “We have produced, for the first time, a global data base and map of the occurrence of fire scars covering the period 2000-2007.”

Prior to this, data were only available for the year 2000.

“With seven years of data, it is not possible to determine if there is an increasing trend in occurrence of fires, but we have significant year-to-year differences, of the order of 20 percent in the area that is burnt,” he added.

The data were collected using the ‘Vegetation’ instrument aboard the SPOT European satellite, which collects reflected solar energy from the Earth’s surface, providing global coverage on almost a daily basis.

The data are in demand by scientists interested in climate change, vegetation monitoring, atmospheric chemistry and carbon storage and flows.

A paper on the collected data has been published in the latest issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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