Long-wave infrared identification of smoldering peat fires in Indonesia with nighttime Landsat data

Smoldering peat fires in Indonesia are responsible for large quantities of trace gas and particulate emissions. However, to date no satellite remote sensing technique has been demonstrated for the identification of smoldering peat fires. Fires have two distinct combustion phases: a high temperature flaming and low temperature smoldering phases. The flaming phase temperature is approximately twice that of the smoldering phase. This temperature differential results in a spectral displacement of the primary radiant emissions of the two combustion phases. It it is possible to exploit this spectral displacement using widely separated wavelength ranges. This paper examines active fire features found in short-wave infrared (SWIR) and long-wave infrared (LWIR) nighttime Landsat data collected on peatlands in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Landsat 8's SWIR bands are on the leading edge of flaming phase radiant emissions, with only minor contribution from the smoldering phase. Conversely, Landsat 8's LWIR bands are on the trailing edge of smoldering phase radiant emissions. After examining the LWIR fire features, we conclude that they are the result of smoldering phase combustion. This has been confirmed with field validation. Detection limits for smoldering peat fires in Landsat 8 is in the 40–90 m2 range. These results could lead to improved management of peatland fires and emission modeling.