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European data to fight fires, floods and other disasters

Sweden is currently going through its worst drought in 74 years, which has caused dozens of wildfires across the country. Millions of euros worth of land have been destroyed. As of last Thursday, 19th of July, an area similar to Stockholm has been burnt. Over a hundred people have been evacuated, while others have been advised to stay indoors with the windows shut as to avoid breathing in the fumes. Although they may come as a surprise, these fires are in line with what researchers expect from climate change: more frequent and intense disasters.

Credit: ESA

To try to reduce the impact of these emergencies, the European Union founded Copernicus, the Earth Observation Programme, which looks down on our planet and its environment. Copernicus consists of a family of satellites called the Sentinels, as well as many in-situ sensors and measurement systems that are put at the disposal of the programme by the EU Member States. Through these satellites and sensors, it monitors and forecasts the state of the environment on land, sea and in the atmosphere.

 

Among the many services that Copernicus offers, the Emergency Management Service, or EMS, is in charge of providing information for emergency response in relation to different types of disasters. In the case of the Swedish fires, the European Forest Fires Information System has been activated. This system provides near real-time and historical information on forest fires. It comprises the full fire cycle, from supplying data on the pre-fire conditions to assessing post-fire damages. Apart from fires, EMS covers other disasters like floods, landslides or earthquakes, deliberate and accidental man-made disasters and also humanitarian ones. In addition, it provides information for prevention, preparedness, response and recovery activities.

 

All of this information is provided completely for free to the stakeholders involved in disaster prevention. Say there’s a flood, fire or earthquake. Public and private contractors take the data from Copernicus and they create maps for the general public and disaster response teams. Within the I-REACT project, GeoVille is the partner that processes and analyses the geo-data layers supplied by the Copernicus EMS. After retrieving the data, GeoVille harmonises the data and integrates ready-to-use maps into the I-REACT platform. The more data is processed the better, as it will allow users to make better-informed decisions. Data provided by EMS on disasters such as wildfires or floods helps prevent the loss of lives, property, and damages to the environment, contributing to build more resilient societies.

 

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