Seasonal differences in fire activity and intensity in tropical savannas of northern Australia using satellite measurements of fire radiative power

Sofia Oliveira, Stefan Maier, Jose Pereira, Jeremy Russell-Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Earth observation sensors play an important role in quantifying the energy released by fires and capturing their spatial and temporal dynamics. Using estimates of MODIS-derived fire radiative power (FRP) we characterised bushfire activity and intensity in tropical savannas of northern Australia, by season and vegetation type, over the period 2004-2012. Our results indicate that fire activity was highest in the Northern Territory and lowest in Queensland. Mean daily number of fire detections was almost twice as high in the late dry season (August-November) compared to the early dry season (May-July). Fire season was bimodal with fire activity peaks in May and October. Median fire intensity was lower for early dry season fires (29 MW) than late dry season fires (56 MW), and was positively correlated with the number of fire detections. Vegetation types with sparse canopy structure showed lower fire activity and higher intensity. Remote sensing of FRP provides frequent estimates of fire intensity over broad areas, allowing the comparison of this key fire behaviour metric across ecosystems and throughout the fire season. FRP estimates may also be used to draw inferences regarding fire effects, once the complexity and ecosystem-specificity of the relationships between fire intensity and fire severity is acknowledged.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)249-260
    Number of pages12
    JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


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