Climate Detectives Projects 2018-2019

Project topic: Wildfires

Project title: Study on the impact of the wildfire of the 23rd of July, 2018 on Rafina’s microclimate, using satellite data provided by ESA


2018-2019   3rd Laboratory Center of East Attica – 1st Junior High School of Rafina   RAFINA   Greece   10 Student’s age: 14-15

Summary of the project

Early in the afternoon of Monday, July 23rd, 2018, a wildfire broke out in the forest, 20km northeast of Athens and 5km to the west of the Eastern Attica coastline. The wildfire, classified as a crown fire, aided by very strong winds of an approximate velocity of 90 km/h, crossed the main highway of the area within a very short time period. The fire finally stopped, right at the coastline. The difficult weather conditions, the area morphology, and the town configuration resulted in the entrapment of a great number of people. This disaster caused many damages to the landscape, such as the large reduction of the forest biomass, water runoff streaming in unanticipated directions, flooding neighborhoods, transporting burned natural forest materials via aqueducts and creeks towards the sea, as well as damaging the new microclimate forming in surrounding forest areas. This situation brought us to do further research on the changes caused in the climate and the soil of our area. The tools provided by the Copernicus platform and ESA helped us a lot to achieve our goal. We investigated the changes in the microclimate using: ⦿ Copernicus program: Utilized data from the satellites SENTINEL2A,2B and LANDSAT8. Vegetation (EO data) indices :(NDVI, SAVI, GNDVI, PSSR), and Soil indices (SOIL COMPOSITION INDEX, MIR/Red Eisenhydroxid-Index, Ferrous Silicates, Normalized Difference Salinity Index), to observe the changes and differences in values, regarding vegetation and soil properties before and after the wildfires. The trends, especially for the effects on the vegetation, are readily apparent. ⦿ Landsat8 data: we created a comparison diagram that shows the differences in the temperature before and after the wildfires ⦿ Image Data (EO data): we spotted the burning area. ⦿ We outlined the differences in the composition of the soil, regarding different chemical and carbon compositions, before and after the fire.

Main results

After our study, we can see, as we expected, that the area’s microclimate has changed and the vegetation has been seriously affected. We saw the difference in the vegetation of the area using the NDVI, where we noticed a drastic change on the prices. In the time period from 2016 until the fire, it used to range from 0.3 to 0.45, but there was a drastic drop the day of the disaster. Forest biomass recovery began after the forest fire in July 2018, and gradually continued through to April 2019. The rates have started getting bigger again, but have not surpassed 0.3. The contrast in the amount and health of the vegetation is also visible from up close, but we used satellite data to get the most accurate result. The fire also caused harm to the soil’s composition, degrading it. That is very clear using the Soil Composition index, where the rates have a significant difference after the fire. Despite all the harm that was caused, nature has slowly started getting back to how it was before. The vegetation is growing back and the soil is getting healthier. However, the microclimate of the area has changed and it will need many years to get back to how it was before if it ever does.

Actions to help lessen the problem

It is urgent to take immediate measures: to monitor continuously the process of forest recovery and the ecological and physiological functions of the burned forest area To manage reforestation To monitor the soil nutritional substances. To manage the soil erosion To implement better fire emergency and post-fire management information systems To be able to prevent such a disaster, -it’s needed to inform the public about the impacts that wildfires have imposed on the ecosystems. -we should make use of Copernicus satellite data about a series of environmental and weather variable conditions, so that citizens and the municipal authorities can be better informed to act intelligently and proactively, using remote observation application and substantiated data.

Projects are created by the teams and they take the full responsibility of the shared data.
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