Same news on the screen, summer after summer: thousands of hectares of forest devastated across Europe, gigantic flames burning away hundred-year-old trees, and grief. A deep grief. Sadly, wildfires are one of the most common natural disasters across our continent. Satellites developed by the European aerospace industry regularly help firefighters from high above. From the sky, actually. What do we mean? We mean through the Copernicus Earth observation programme.
Copernicus is a network of satellites, or ‘sentinels’, constantly observing Europe. From Galicia to London, from Oslo to Portugal, they play a crucial role when natural disasters occur, and when it comes to extinguishing fires, as they provide detailed and extremely valuable information for teams on the ground.
But how exactly do satellites help? Basically, by ascertaining the old maxim: a picture is worth a thousand words. The sentinels direct the lenses of their “mega-cameras” towards the specific area in flames and take high-resolution images of the territory, which are later compared to images taken weeks or months before. This allows to create useful emergency maps.
With this data in their hands, ground and airborne firefighter teams can jointly plan the most effective way to tackle a wildfire, as well as cross-check the data with weather observation satellites, such as those operated by EUMETSAT, which provide real-time information on temperatures, winds or rainfall.