EU Science Hub

JRC supports wildfire monitoring in the EU

From 1 January to 6 August 2018, there have been 496 wildfires of 30 hectares or larger across the European Union.
From 1 January to 6 August 2018, there have been 496 wildfires of 30 hectares or larger across the European Union.
Aug 22 2018

From 1 January to 6 August 2018, there have been 496 wildfires of 30 hectares or larger across the European Union. That's 130 more fires than the 10-year average at this time of year.

These figures come from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), which is managed by the JRC.

Up to date, in 2018, most wildfires occurred in central and northern EU countries, as wildfires are increasingly occurring outside of the traditional fire season and in countries where they were previously rare.

However, the most devastating fires, as in previous years, happened in the Mediterranean region, such as those in Mati, in Greece, or in Monchique, Portugal.

EFFIS provides the most up to date information on fire danger in the EU and the latest data to identify the evolution and trends of wildfires, helping authorities monitor these wildfires and respond effectively when an emergency happens.  

EFFIS is a component of the EU's Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS).

Combining meteorological information, data on the predominant vegetation on the ground, and topography with the latest available satellite imagery, EFFIS  provides vital information to help prevent disasters when possible, prepare for the damage they can cause, respond quickly and effectively, and recover in the aftermath.

Making sense of wildfire trends across Europe

Data from EFFIS shows that although the number of wildfires for this time of year is above the 10-year average, the total burnt area in Europe – 87469 hectares on August 6th, 2018 – was below the 10-year average of 139289 hectares.

JRC researchers explain that this is because the majority of this year's fires have occurred in Central and Northern European countries.

Although big at the scale of these countries, they were not as big as the fires that usually affect the Mediterranean countries, which usually account for about 85% of the total burnt area in Europe.

"In 2017 we saw an intensification of wildfires, with a high number of large fires and many of them occurring outside the traditional fire season, i.e. the summer months. In 2018, we are observing an expansion of the areas that are at risk, with fires occurring in countries where wild fires were not so common in the past, including Sweden, Latvia, Germany and the UK", explains JRC expert Jesus San-Miguel.

EFFIS supports the services in charge of the protection of forests against fires and firefighting authorities in the EU countries and at the European and international level.

It also provides the European Commission services and the European Parliament with up-to-date and reliable information on wildfires in Europe. 

Currently, the system provides accurate data and maps of the active fires and burnt areas in 41 countries.

A number of services are available for fire prevention services, national authorities and other users to monitor the on-going fires and to analyse trends over time.

Current Situation Viewer

The Current Situation Viewer provides access to several EFFIS modules and displays the most up-to-date information on fire danger forecast and the evolution of on-going fires in Europe and the Mediterranean area.

Fire Danger Forecast

The fire danger forecast module of EFFIS generates daily maps of 1 to 10 days of fire danger using numerical weather predictions.

In addition to fire danger predictions, EFFIS provides fire weather forecasts, showing the temperature and rainfall anomalies that are expected to prevail in European and Mediterranean areas – with forecasts available for the next 4 weeks and the next 6 months.

Rapid Damage Assessment

The Rapid Damage Assessment (RDA) module of EFFIS maps active fires and burned areas, assessing the damage caused by wildfires to the environment and human assets.

Active fires are located on the basis of the thermal anomalies, using data from the MODIS and VIIRS sensors on-board of NASA satellites.

Data are acquired via the NASA Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS).

The above map shows the active fires in Europe and the surrounding regions from 24 to 31 July.

By analysing daily images of the MODIS sensor on board the TERRA and ACQUA satellites, EFFIS provides a daily update of the burnt areas in Europe that are 30 hectares or larger, twice per day.

An additional update of burnt areas is provided using data from the VIIRS sensor on-board of the Suomi NPP satellite.

Maps can be generated by users on the EFFIS web site - a user guide is available on the website.

Analysis Tools

In addition to the services described above, the current situation viewer provides analysis tools, which allow the user to access detailed information on each of the fires mapped in EFFIS (through the “Burnt Area Locator”) or monitor the evolution in the trends of fires and burnt area in the countries or at the European level. 

With the seasonal trend analysis tool, the number of fires in Europe for the current year can be checked and compared to the 10-year average, from 2008 to 2017.

If you are looking for data on forest fires which is not directly available on the EFFIS website, you can use this data request form to request it.

Annual Forest Fire Reports

Each year in the summer, the JRC publishes the Annual Report on forest fires of the previous fire campaign, which provides comprehensive reports of the fires that occurred in Europe, and separately in each country.

The 2017 report is being finalised at the time of writing this news. It is expected to be published in the coming weeks.

The Copernicus Emergency Management Service

EFFIS is one component of Copernicus EMS, which includes Mapping, the European and Global Flood Awareness System, EFFIS and the Global Wildfire Information System, and the European and Global Drought Observatory.

The mapping service of Copernicus EMS covers floods, fires, earthquakes and other disasters. It can be activated by authorised users - including entities and organisations at regional, national, European and international level that are active in the field of crisis management.

The list of activations is publicly available. There have been several individual wildfire activations over the past month.

More on this topic

17/07/2018: Fighting forest fires in Europe – how it works

21/07/2018: EU coordinates further assistance to help Sweden fight forest fires