Monday, 30 October 2017 16:49

2017: A “hot” summer on Mount Vesuvius !

During the 2017 summer season, the Vesuvius National Park was struck by a devastating fire event which caused massive damage to the forest heritage on all flanks of the volcano. Large quantities of ashes resulting from the burning of tens of hectares of Mediterranean scrubs have been dispersed in the atmosphere. The fire event has produced extensive colts of smoke affecting a huge area including several human settlements, as observable in the ESA Sentinel 2B satellite image of July 12 (Figure 1).

2017 IREA Vesuvio Figura1

 Figure 1 - Vesuvius National Park: image acquired by ESA Sentinel 2B satellite on July 12, 2017. The false color representation of the multi-spectral bands (RGB: 12,8,4) highlights active fire fronts along the slopes of Vesuvius, as orange spots in the SWIR spectral band, as well as the large smoke plumes. Sentinel 2 data are Copernicus copyright (2017). National Park Perimeter (DGPNM / MATTM).
In his recently published preface to the official JRC-EFFIS annual report on the wildfires of 2016 (EUR 28707 EN, PUBSY No. JRC107591) Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director-General of DG for Environment of the European Commission, writes that "By early September 2017, wildfires have already burnt nearly 700 000 ha of land in the EU; hence, this season will most likely be remembered as one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in Europe since records began."

Wildfires records for 2017 summer season indicate that Italy, in Europe, had the highest number of fire events, while in terms of forest area burned, Portugal was the most affected country, where sadly this year’s fires have caused the loss of 40 people.

In the frame of the conference "Protecting the forests from the fires: proposals and actions for the preservation and recovery of the territory. Case Study: Vesuvius "(Naples, October 16, 2017), organized by the General Command of Carabinieri, Dr. Bruno Petrucci of the Directorate General for the Protection of Nature and Sea (DGPNM) of the Ministry of the Environment and Territorial Protection and the Sea (MATTM) held an invited presentation with the contribution of the work done by CNR-IREA researchers.

In particular, CNR-IREA has been responsible for processing Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite imagery to detect areas affected by wildfires that hit the Vesuvius National Park during the 2017 summer season. Images of Figure 2 show the effects of the wildfire on the vegetation cover within the National Park area.


2017 IREA Vesuvio Figura2

Figure 2 – Vesuvius National Park: comparison between images acquired by ESA Sentinel 2A satellite (natural colors  RGB: 432 red, green, blue with 10 m ground spatial resolution) before and after the major fire events of summer 2017. (a) data acquired on May 18, 2017; (b) data acquired on August 26, 2017. Sentinel 2 data are Copernicus copyright (2017). National Park Perimeter (DGPNM / MATTM).


Figure 3 shows maps of fire affected areas produced by processing Sentinel 2A and Sentinel 2B satellite data acquired by ESA. Each color represents the date when the area was first detected as burned. The automatic mapping algorithm is based on the fuzzy integration of spectral indices, e.g. binary combinations of S2 spectral bands (Stroppiana et al., 2012; The algorithm was applied exclusively to "natural vegetation areas" extracted from the Corine Land Cover map (2012) and within the boundaries of the Vesuvius National Park (DGPNM / MATTM).

IREA researchers are committed to developing new methodologies for the integrated use of optical and SAR data made available by the ESA Sentinel constellations for better characterization of the effects of wildfires on forested areas.


                           2017 IREA Vesuvio Figura3

Figure 3 - Vesuvius National Park: Burned area maps derived from ESA Sentinel 2A and 2B images acquired during 2017 summer season. Sentinel 2 data are Copernicus copyright (2017). National Park Perimeter (DGPNM / MATTM).


According to DGPNM / MATTM official records, the 2007 summer season is the previous "annus horribilis" for forest fires within National Parks of Italy. As highlighted during the Conference, these extreme situations (droughts, heat waves, etc.) tend to occur more and more frequently and are worsened by the climate change scenario. In order to face these extreme events, we need a coordinated effort for better management of forest resources.
Besides the participation to the Conference of research experts and representatives from institutions directly involved in the prevention and control activities, the presence of two ministers of the Italian Republic, i.e. Gian Luca Galletti (Ministry of the Environment and Territorial Protection and the Sea) and Maurizio Martina (Ministry of Agricultural Food and Forestry) has emphasized the importance of forest fire prevention, forest fire fighting and burnt forest restoration.

Flyer of the meeting


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