More NAFI Tools for Tracking Fires

Check Conditions

This menu allows you to:

  1. Check the cloud conditions as seen by the satellites that detect the fires.
  2. View recent lightning activity.  
  3. Query recent lightning activity.

These tools can be useful when checking an active fire – to see if cloud cover might be limiting satellite  detection, to verify hotspots are a fire by looking for smoke plumes, and to see if lightning strikes may have been involved in starting a fire.

1.      Smoke & Clouds

Clicking ‘Smoke & Clouds’ will open an image in a new tab or window that shows the view of the map  area by the most recent Terra or Aqua satellite.

  1. Select the ‘Track Fires’ Tab
  2. Select ‘Check Conditions’
  3. Select ‘Smoke & Clouds’
  4. A new tab will open in your internet browser with the latest cloud cover.

The cloud cover image may appear a bit blurry if you are zoomed in, but it will show the current cloud cover and the presence of smoke plumes. For example, the image below shows significant cloud cover in the satellite’s view of a NAFI map area. In this case if you have a fire in the area arrowed, it will likely not be detected by the satellite due to cloud cover and will not show up on NAFI.

The satellites are often passing low in the sky when they take a photo of a fire. Sometimes it may be sunny overhead however clouds towards the horizon may be preventing fire detection like in the diagram below. The ‘Smoke & Clouds’ tool will provide the satellite’s eye view to verify if this is happening.

You can also use the Check Clouds tool to verify that a hotspot or group of hotspots on a NAFI map are actually fires. As shown below, many active fires will show up as smoke plumes – such images can also give a good guide to prevailing winds.

2.      Show Lightning

Selecting Show Lightning allows the display of satellite detected lightning strikes on your NAFI map.

Viewing lightning strikes can be useful in deciding if a fire may have been started by lightning. Because of the potentially very large number of lightning strikes, the NAFI site only displays the last few days of lightning strike observations. It can be useful to get a more accurate idea of the timing of a lightning strike to see if it corresponds to a fire.

3.      Query Lightning

  1. Zoom right into the area you’d like to query some way to see the lightning strikes displayed.
  2. Select the ‘Track Fires’ Tab
  3. Select ‘Query Lightning’.
  4. You will notice a yellow spot appears at the tip of your curser. Draw a boundary around the lightning strikes double-clicking to close the selection.
  5. A table will be displayed that shows the time at which the lightning was detected.

! IMPORTANT NOTE: MANY DISPLAYED LIGHTNING STRIKES MAY NOT BE AT GROUND LEVEL. Because the lightning strikes are detected by satellites rather than by an on-ground detection system, many of the strikes detected in an area may be cloud-to-cloud strikes. Therefore, you may see a lot of strikes in your area, but not be aware of many strikes on the ground.

Checking for Updates

You can find out when and what the latest firescar (burnt area mapping) and hotspot updates were and when to expect the next hotspot updates through the ‘Check for Updates’ menu.

  1. Select the ‘Track Fires’ tab
  2. Select the ‘Check for Updates’ button.
  3. By selecting ‘latest firescars’ a window will open with a table that provides a summary with the date rage of the latest burnt area mapping upload for different regions.
  4. To find out the latest hotspots loaded to NAFI select ‘latest hotspots’. A table will open with information about the satellite or source, the time the hotspot was detected and the time it was uploaded to NAFI.
  5. Select the ‘next hotspot updates’ button to find out when the next satellite overpass will occur.  Once selected, a new webpage will open in a new tab providing a link to Geoscience Australia’s daily satellite passes webpage.

Note: The delay between satellite detection and hotspots appearing on the NAFI website is usually between 30 Minutes and two hours. Click here to find out more.