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Could Big Data And AI Help Have Helped In Predicting & Battling The Amazon Wildfire?

Could Big Data And AI Help Have Helped In Predicting & Battling The Amazon Wildfire?


You all must have seen #PrayForAmazon all over the internet as the issue is much bigger than we can imagine. Spanning 9 countries ­— Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world, where the majority of the forest is contained within Brazil. The Amazon rainforest is also popularly known as the lungs of the planet and is believed to produce 20% of Earth’s oxygen.



Now, it has been over three weeks that thousands of fires are burning in Brazil, and most of them are in the Amazon forest, producing a tremendous amount of smoke that could be seen even from space.

While it is common in Brazil as every year the nation suffers wildfire, this time things have become far worse with more than 74,000 fires across Brazil and nearly 40,000 fires across the Amazon only this year. Also, this is the fastest rate of burning since record-keeping began, in 2013.

Data Is The New Weapon To Fight Wildfire

While people are questioning why the government couldn’t forecast the wildfire, even after knowing that it happens every single year, there are people who are thinking whether big data and artificial intelligence could be a helping hand in predicting and fighting wildfires.

Data scientists are now considering working with the following points to analyse wildfire:

  • The most likely starting point and the time of the wildfire
  • How the fire would spread and what would be the consequences.
  • The type of vegetation: whether the vegetation in the area has the ability to force the fire to spread rapidly
  •  Whether there is any kind of combustible
  • Weather conditions
  • Past records of wildfire at that place, which would include the cause as well

There is a lot of other data that data scientists are now harnessing to develop predictive models of when and where wildfires are most likely to occur, allowing firefighting teams to take preventative action. Even though such measures may not be enough to stop the fire completely, they can at least alarm and let the firefighting teams be ready for the fight.

Last year, WIFIRE Lab developed an integrated system for fire analysis in order to help the Los Angeles Fire Department monitor the fire and predict the next move. The fire analysis system is powered by signal processing, visualisation, modelling and data assimilation for real-time fire forecasting.

The system merges satellite imagery and real-time data from cameras and sensors to assemble a picture of the fire. And when it comes to tracking the wind, the system takes current data about wind into consideration along with data from thousands of earlier wind events. Once then data is gathered, the system crunches it and turns out a predictive map of the fire’s expected trajectory.

Talking about the California wildfire event where this system was deployed last year, from firefighting departments to research developers, everyone could see how the fire could spread and affect the different areas.

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WIFIRE is not the only firm that is working on forecasting wildfire, there are other companies as well and one of them is Cape Analytics, that uses AI and geospatial imagery to provide instant property intelligence so insurers can more accurately assess a property’s risk and value. Even though this company is focused on property intelligence, the technology they use is one of the best when it comes to predicting wildfire.

Cape Analytics’ technology is capable of determining the presence of vegetation, and also helps in figuring out how like the vegetation in a given area could fuel the growth of a wildfire.

Outlook

The nature of the Amazon wildfire is much more alarming than people can imagine. While companies and government were busy taking things to the internet rather than using technology as a weapon to fight the wildfire, the scenario could have been different.

Data and AI over the years have played a vital role in filling some serious gaps and its role in emergency situations like wildfire is also becoming popular. And with new advances in the domain, with more and more data getting generated every year, these sought after tech could be used in forecasting massive Amazon wildfire.


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