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FUEGO — Fire Urgency Estimator in Geosynchronous Orbit — A Proposed Early-Warning Fire Detection System

Abstract

Current and planned wildfire detection systems are impressive but lack both sensitivity and rapid response times. A small telescope with modern detectors and significant computing capacity in geosynchronous orbit can detect small (12 m2) fires on the surface of the earth, cover most of the western United States (under conditions of moderately clear skies) every few minutes or so, and attain very good signal-to-noise ratio against Poisson fluctuations in a second. Hence, these favorable statistical significances have initiated a study of how such a satellite could operate and reject the large number of expected systematic false alarms from a number of sources. Here we present both studies of the backgrounds in Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) 15 data and studies that probe the sensitivity of a fire detection satellite in geosynchronous orbit. We suggest a number of algorithms that can help reduce false alarms, and show efficacy on a few. Early detection and response would be of true value in the United States and other nations, as wildland fires continue to severely stress resource managers, policy makers, and the public, particularly in the western US. Here, we propose the framework for a geosynchronous satellite with modern imaging detectors, software, and algorithms able to detect heat from early and small fires, and yield minute-scale detection times.