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Historical Fire Scars available on Data Platform

By 03/31/2022 April 1st, 2022 No Comments

Today it is possible to access a dataset of fire scars observable in the landscape of 10 regions of central-southern Chile, in high resolution, analyzed and curated. Where? in, entering the data catalog, it is possible to preview this information, download it or export it to the map viewer. These data were provided by Alejandro Miranda, researcher at (CR)2 and Universidad de la Frontera and a team of collaborators. Here we tell you more about their research. 

Image: Satellite view of fire scars at

A team made up of 16 people from different regions of the country and with funding from various institutions was required to collect information on the scars left by forest fires in the center-south of the country. Using Google Earth Engine (GEE), they managed to build a detailed and dynamic database of the scars caused by more than 8 thousand fires in the country's landscape, representing 66.6% of the fires officially registered between 1985 and 2018. 

This project started because while doing his postdoctoral work in (CR)2 , researcher Alejandro Miranda realized that there was a need to generate this data. "Most of the research on fires starts from the database generated by Conaf. This database contains a lot of data on the fire (...) but it is of points, it gives you the point where it started. At one point we saw the need to also have the area that burned, we found ourselves with this data gap to make more complex analyses. That's when we decided with some colleagues from CR2 to start a database".

After almost two years of work, using a GEE script, they were able to reconstruct the following information for each fire: a mosaic of pre- and post-fire satellite images, the fire scar in binary format, the fire indices estimated remotely (NBR, RdNBR), as well as a fire severity classification.

These datasets are publicly and freely available in the Resilience Data Platform, which was possible after a systematization and curation work by the (CR)2 team and Itrend. Regarding the latter, Miranda emphasized that "something that was very important for me is that Itrend generated the technical capabilities to make the data available. I wanted to create a data platform, but I did not have the tools to do it and it was very expensive, and at the institute these problems were solved".

This work corresponds to the first line of action addressed jointly by the Center for Climate and Resilience Science (CR)2 and the Institute for Disaster Resilience (Itrend), as part of an agreement signed between the two institutions. "One of our objectives is the creation of public goods, such as measurement tools and databases, that provide a solid basis for disaster resilience analysis. The fire scars project is closely related to Itrend's mission," says Itrend's executive director, Catalina Undurraga.

Miranda is currently working with a multidisciplinary team that is developing the knowledge and tools necessary for territorial planning in an environment prone to forest fires, a project promoted by the Institute of Complex Systems of the School of Engineering of the University of Chile (ISCI). In Miranda's opinion, "it should be an obligation for every researcher who obtained data with public funds to share them", thus facilitating the work of future research.

Alejandro Miranda is Associate Researcher at the Center for Climate Science and Resilience (CR)2, University of Chile and member of the Landscape Ecology and Conservation Laboratory, Department of Forestry Sciences, Universidad de La Frontera. Here you can read the article associated with this research: The Landscape Fire Scars Database: mapping historical burned area and fire severity in Chile.