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Researchers develop new technology to detect devastating wildfires: ‘[It senses] conditions where everything is perfect for a burn’

Better wildfire detection technology could help firefighters to stop out-of-control fires from happening while also having to put themselves at less risk.

Better wildfire detection technology could help firefighters to stop out-of-control fires from happening while also having to put themselves at less risk.

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With the rise in global temperatures and an increasing number of extreme weather events, wildfires are becoming more frequent and more intense. That means researchers are looking for new ways to use technology to handle these dangerous events, including identifying them before they start.

One such group of researchers from Ohio State University is testing a new tool called Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), which first responders could use to combat wildfires and stop them from spreading out of control, as reported by Phys.org. 

According to the researchers, SAR may be superior to current methods of tracking wildfires due to its “advantage of functioning in all weather conditions” and its ability to “operate both day and night at fine spatial scales and temporal resolutions of interest.” 

In simpler terms, SAR can gather data at night, during all kinds of weather conditions, and is not blocked by wildfire smoke.

“A lot of [wildfire detection] programs in recent history rely on a variety of remote sensing methods, such as optical sensors that have a lot of inherent disadvantages,” Dustin Horton, the Ohio State doctoral student who led the research, said in a release from the university. 

“Scientists can now identify areas with conditions where everything is perfect for a burn, all the models say it will, and sometimes it just doesn’t. Because the whole wildfire process is extremely complex, a lot of the heavy lifting still relies on the mitigation work of firefighters,” he continued.

Periodic wildfires can be necessary and beneficial for some forests. 

However, because of rising temperatures and abnormally dry conditions, many wildfires have spread out of control in recent years, causing immense damage to people’s property and health. Better wildfire detection technology could help firefighters prevent that while also putting themselves at risk less.

New technology is not our only method of combating out-of-control wildfires, though — in Canada, a city in British Columbia was recently saved from a wildfire by utilizing ancient indigenous land-management practices.

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