Drones and soil sampling: New strategies for fighting wildfires – Wikipedia

“Moderately warm and dry air determines the weather in Brandenburg and Berlin,” The German Weather Service (DWD) mentioned in its forecast From Monday. It will be partly cloudy at night until Tuesday, and there will be no rain. It’s dry in Brandenburg, very dry this time of year. For the southern half of the state The bushfire risk is already rated “high”..

A new European research consortium is now developing a fire management system to prevent large wildfires. As conditions change with climate change, bushfire risks are likely to be more frequent and longer, as they were last year.

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Appropriate extinguishing procedures and extinguishing media

subordinate The European Union’s climate change service, Copernicus, described the summer of 2021 as the warmest in Europe Since the start of the recordings. In July and August about 800,000 hectares of forests and shrubs were burned in the Mediterranean region. This corresponds to half the area of ​​Schleswig-Holstein. Brandenburg, with its large pine forests, low rainfall and light sandy soil, is the state with the highest risk of wildfires nationwide.

“The current drying out of the soil is a major factor,” says Anja Hofmann-Böllinghaus of the Federal Institute for Research and Testing of Materials (BAM) in Berlin. The drier the ground, the greater the risk of fire and its spread. The fire engineer is a project manager at BAM, one of 46 European partners in the Fire Management System Research Association, which is funded over three and a half years with €23 million from the EU Horizon programme.

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Hoffman Bowlinghaus explains that “soil varies depending on the plants on it.” Because of the litter, soil from oak forests behaves differently from soil from pine or mixed forest. The leaves and needles of different types of trees have very different levels of flammability. Needles, with a high content of essential oils, especially burn.

“The flammability of the soil under certain types of trees largely determines how quickly wildfires can spread,” says Hoffman Bolinghouse. In addition, soil condition is an important indicator of appropriate extinguishing measures and extinguishing agents.

Cold forest, warm city

Fires worldwide have increased in recent decades. Globally affected area has decreased. However, this is mainly due to reduced fires in grasslands and savannas, which together account for the largest proportion of fire affected areas. Forest areas are still frequently affected, also by climate change. Examples include fires in Australia, the west coast of the United States, and Siberia.

Wildfires exacerbate the climate crisis because they release massive amounts of carbon dioxide. “Healthy forests are largely associated with carbon dioxide and contribute to cooling through their internal climate,” explains Hoffman Bolinghouse. Pierre Eibsch of the University of Sustainable Development in Eberswald also points out the cooling function: “The forest of the future will store as much water as possible in the soil, trees and dead wood and cool itself.”

Extensive dense forests managed to cool the entire landscape significantly. In big cities like Berlin, the temperature in summer can be over 12°C higher than in nearby forested areas.

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The results of a fire management project should help maintain this cooling function, detecting fires as early as possible, reducing them and, ideally, preventing them completely through preventive measures. Modern methods are combined for this. Firefighters are trained using virtual reality. Artificial intelligence and self-learning systems are used in simulations that predict the spread of fires. Drones monitor forests exposed to fire.

According to Hofmann-Böllinghaus, it is envisaged that the drones will also be equipped with gas metering devices so that they can better assess the danger situation of nearby settlements and emergency services. In addition, data from about 40 Copernicus satellites, provided by the European Space Agency ESA, were included.

Knowledge of fire management

“We want to use the factors of current drought, vegetation, and temperature to draw conclusions about the risk of wildfires,” says Hoffmann-Bulinghouse. Investigation of soil samples in BAM aims to provide information about the different fire dynamics of pine and oak stalls, for example, which largely determines appropriate extinguishing methods. Depending on the dynamics of the fire, emergency services can erect barriers on certain lines, which is especially effective in the case of ground fires, or dig paths and fill them with water – at least if it is available in the forest.

The relatively short duration of the project shows how much time is necessary. “With the Fire Management System, we want to offer knowledge and effective tools to everyone involved in forest fire prevention, but also to emergency services from the fire brigade or civil protection,” says Hoffman Bolinghouse.

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