First Project Selections under FireSense Technology 2022 Solicitation

 NASA Science Mission Directorate
Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences –2022
NNH22ZDA001N-FIRET A.53 Technology Development for Support of Wildfire Science and Disaster Mitigation

05/18/2023 -NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC has selected two proposals for the FireSense Technology Program (FIRET-22), a technology development program managed by the Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) that seeks new, innovative Earth system observation capabilities to predict and manage wildfires and their impacts. These projects aim to develop new tools for monitoring extreme fire events and forecasting wildfire spread.

Sreeja Nag from the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, Inc. plans to develop and verify a space-based distributed observing system that will enhance the Weather Research and Forecasting Fire Spread Model (WRF-SFIRE) and other existing USGS fire danger products. Building off a previous ESTO project—Distributed Spacecraft with Heuristic Intelligence to Enable Logistical Decisions (D-SHIELD)—Nag’s team plans to use Global Navigation Satellite Systems- reflectometry (GNSS-R) data from currently operational Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) and Spire Global satellites to make improved soil moisture measurements and to generate Burnt Area Maps (BAMs). These data products will significantly augment current fire prediction and provide new frameworks for wildfire observation and management.

The Pyro-atmosphere InfraRed Sounder (PIRS), to be developed by Sun Wong at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), aims to provide 3-dimensional information about the state of the atmosphere during the pre- and active-fire stages of wildland fires. This airborne instrument would measure temperature and humidity with high spatial resolution, providing insights into how fires start and spread as well informing fire management response. Like Nag’s project, PIRS advances previous ESTO work and will achieve major size reductions and lower costs for instrument development and flight operations.

As this is a no due date program, future awards are expected, and this announcement will be updated. Abstracts for the 2 awards, which have a total dollar value of approximately $5M over three years, are as follows:


Sreeja Nag/Bay Area Environmental Research Institute
Distributed Spacecraft with Heuristic Intelligence to monitor Wildfire Spread for Responsive Control (Step 2)

We propose to develop and verify a space-based distributed observing system to improve wildfire response decisions by monitoring and forecasting fuel flammability and wildfire spread and providing on-demand fire danger and burnt area maps. The system will use Global Navigation Satellite System Reflectometry (GNSS-R) within an intelligent, adaptive sensing framework, that leverages mid-TRL tools like D-SHIELD (Distributed Spacecraft with Heuristic Intelligence to Enable Logistical Decisions) and WRFx employing WRF-SFIRE (Weather Research and Forecasting Fire Spread Model). GNSS-R provides microwave data that can pierce through clouds/smoke/canopy, has a small form factor allowing for scalable constellations, and hence frequent data products during active fires than MODIS and VIIRS (12-24 hours). D-SHIELD is a software tool suite for optimal, ground-based, observation planning for a constellation of spaceborne instruments informed by dynamic scientific objectives (AIST-18). WRFx is an integrated fire and smoke decision support tool (AIST-21). Resultant data products will be used to enhance existing USGS fire danger products and the USGS-supported LANDFIRE fuel layers product.

We will develop/enhance five products using GNSS-R data from CYGNSS (7-satellite NASA mission) and Spire Global (commercial fleet) and assimilate into WRFx. GNSS-R has shown successful Soil Moisture (SM) retrievals for weather and flood forecasting, but active fire applications have been limited.
1/ Improved SM retrieval accuracy and resolution via an automated calibration strategy around active fire regions, enabled by new physics and machine learning based retrieval models
2/ Dynamic burnt-area maps (BAMs) from high-resolution Delay Doppler Maps; Will improve the ‘absence of fire’ component of WRFx,
3/ & 4/ Enhanced USGS Wildfire Fire Potential Index and Wildfire Large Fire Probability fire danger products using the SM from #1; will improve fire prediction
5/ High cadence LANDFIRE fuel layer products during active fires; will provide the fire simulator community access to updated fuel layer data.
#3, #4, #5 leverages the popularity of USGS and LANDFIRE products such that public can access GNSS-R data enhanced fire products without the need for development of new interfaces.

The WRFx system will be revised to process the new data products: SM, BAM. A new emissions module will be developed to replace the current simplistic one within WRF-SFIRE. The developed data products and new module is expected to improve WRFx fire prediction, which will inform observation planning and fire management via the 2 frameworks that we will develop:
A/ Observation Value Framework, to quantify observation priorities based on different dynamic objectives such as improving WRFx prediction quality, field campaigns in populous areas
B/ Fire Forecast Reporter to improve situational awareness and support ongoing wildfire field campaigns using improved fire growth expectations, smoke dispersion, visibility predictions.

A critical component of the proposed system is the intelligence to dynamically task the observing (satellites) and planning (ground stations) assets, and synchronization between them. GNSS-R satellites can switch to a high-resolution data gathering mode and have a programmable uplink-downlink with customizable data priorities. We will significantly enhance D-SHIELD planner for wildfire applications using satellites like CYGNSS to capture a desired number of specular locations at resolutions and priorities informed by frameworks A-B. System responsiveness depends on runtime of computational components, number of satellites and ground stations. Agile technology beyond what is currently available will be simulated and the utility vs cost evaluated to inform future GNSS-R missions. Increased utility by adding responsively tasked GNSS-R data will be verified against nominal WRFx forecasts, and nominal USGS and LANDFIRE products.


Sun Wong/California Institute of Technology
Pyro-Atmosphere Infrared Sounder: Monitoring Fire Weather Conditions with a Sub-Kilometer Spatial-Resolution Hyperspectral Infrared Sounder

Wildfire results in tremendous economic loss in the Continental United States, and the frequency of occurrence is increasing in a warming global climate. We propose to perform unprecedented measurements using a new hyperspectral infrared sounder (PIRS) on aircraft campaigns to demonstrate the capabilities of high spatially resolved temperature (T) and humidity (q) soundings on improvement in fire weather monitoring and forecasts during pre- and active-fire stages. We will obtain consultation and advices from Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), to refine our instrument measurement requirements as well as data products for improvement of monitoring fire meteorology and atmospheric conditions for fire sciences and management.

Remote sensing datasets used for fire weather monitoring are mainly from imagers, e.g., MODIS or GOES, which provide 2-D surface information such as surface temperature and vegetation types. However, 3-D information of the state of the atmosphere is essential in fire weather monitoring and forecasting. For example, synoptic scale weather patterns are highly related to development of extreme fire events. Coupling of the planetary boundary (PBL) during extreme fire events with mid-tropospheric moisture advection may induce pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb), causing fire suppression activity to be more difficult and unpredictable due to the turbulent atmosphere. Therefore, fire meteorology is not only the study of how meteorological conditions influence fire initiation and development, but also how the wildfire can alter atmospheric circulation and provide feedback to fire development. This information helps assist in fire management and public safety.

The Pyro-atmosphere InfraRed Sounder (PIRS) uses new grating spectrometer optics and detector technology developed under NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) to achieve a major size reduction in infrared sounding from an aircraft, achieving lower cost for the instrument development and flight operations. PIRS exists as a TRL 5 brassboard and is well suited to implementation in an aircraft. PIRS can perform three measurements with unprecedented flexible spatial resolution (~15-470 m) and wide swath (~20 km at 8.5 km atltitude) from an aircraft platform: (1) 3-D sounding of temperature (T) and specific humidity (q) in the atmosphere from the PBL to the upper troposphere, (2) Carbon Monoxide (CO) measurement for monitoring transport of polluted air, and (3) estimates of fire radiative power (FRP) in imaging mode at 15 m resolution.

We aim to achieve the following goals to help wildfire prediction and management:
(G1) Obtain atmospheric thermodynamic structures (T and q profiles) in ‘sounding’ mode with a wide swath (~20 km at 8.5 km flight altitude) and high spatial resolution (470 m horizontal and ~300-500 m vertical) and FRP in ‘imaging’ mode (15 m horizontal) to monitor the initiation and development of wildland fire events.
(G2) Map instantaneously the atmospheric thermodynamic conditions to the initiation of pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) for mitigation of hazards during fire suppression activities.
(G3) Measure the CO distribution, an indicator of air quality and smoke spread, and monitor its transport relative to the atmospheric thermodynamic conditions.