Latest revision: April 24th, 2019
Contact details: Niels Andela (

"The Global Fire Atlas of individual fire size, duration, speed and direction" Andela et al. (2019)

The Global Fire Atlas is a new freely available global dataset that tracks the daily dynamics of individual fires to determine the timing and location of ignitions, fire size and duration, and daily expansion, fire line length, speed, and direction of spread. Data are available in easily accessible GIS-layers and can also be explored online here and a detailed description of the underlying methodology is provided by Andela et al. (2019).

The data provide unique insights in the environmental conditions that give rise to the world's most extreme wildfires. The world's largest wildfires were found in sparsely populated arid and semiarid grasslands and shrublands of interior Australia, Africa, and Central Asia. Strikingly, fires of these proportions were nearly absent in similar ecosystems of North and South America, possibly due to higher landscape fragmentation and different management practices, including active fire suppression.

While the world's largest fires occurred in more arid ecosystems, the longest fires burned for over 2 months in seasonal regions of the humid tropics and high-latitude forests. In these sparsely populated high fuel-load systems fires can continuously burn as long as weather conditions are favorable. Abnormal weather conditions often synchronized the occurrence of multiple extreme wildfires across larger regions. Global patterns of fire velocity were reversely related to fuel loads, and the highest fire velocities typically occurred in areas of low fuel loads.

Location and year of the largest, longest, and fastest fires over the study period 2003-2016

Location and year of the largest, longest, and fastest fires over the study period 2003-2016.

The data explorer tool below allows for exploration of the ignition point (red dots) and fire perimeter (black lines) shapefiles with corresponding attribute tables as well as the underlying 500 m gridded data on individual fire behavior (Table 1).

The example fire in northern Botswana burned across an area of 1600 km2 during 24 days. Interestingly, fire behavior (e.g. speed and direction of spread) varied widely within the fire boundaries and across different days.

Please zoom in to any region of interest and click on any fire to explore regional fire behavior across the globe. The dropdown lists in the upper left corner allow users to change the year and the underlying 500 m gridded data on individual fire behavior.

Current Selection: None
Lat, Lon N/A Start Date N/A Daily Fire Line N/A>
Perimeter N/A Duration N/A Speed N/A
Size N/A Daily Fire Expansion N/A Direction of Spread N/A

The shapefiles of ignition locations (point) and fire perimeters (polygon) contain attribute tables with summary information for each individual fire, while the underlying 500 m gridded layers reflect the day-to-day behavior of the individual fires. In addition, we provide aggregate monthly layers at 0.25° resolution for regional and global analyses.

Shapefile attributes*500 m daily gridded0.25° monthly gridded
Ignitionslocation and timing - sum
Perimeter (km) per fire - -
Size (km2) per fire -average
Duration (days) per fire -average
Daily fire line (km) average per fireyesaverage
Daily fire expansion (km2 day-1) average per fire-average
Speed (km day-1) average per fireyesaverage
Direction of spread (-) dominant per fireyesdominant
Day of burn -yes-
* vector data are derived from the underlying 500 m MODIS data.

The Global Fire Atlas dataset tracks the day-to-day dynamics of individual fires based on moderate resolution burned area data. During 2003 - 2016, we identified about 13.3 million individual fires globally. For each individual fire, the dataset provides information on the timing and location of the ignition, the fire size, perimeter, duration, daily fire line, daily expansion, speed and direction of spread. The methodology and validation are presented in Andela et al. (2018), while details on the underlying 500 m resolution daily burned area product (MCD64A1 collection 6) are described in Giglio et al. (2018). Data are available from 2003 to 2016 and will be updated annually while both Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments are operational.

Data are produced in GIS file-formats (GeoTIFF and shape files) and are available as gridded 500 m global layers with corresponding vector shapefiles showing individual fire perimeters and ignition locations, as well as a monthly 0.25° aggregate product (Table 1). The annual global shape files and 500 m gridded layers are produced for each fire season, a 12-month period centered on the month of peak-fire activity in each 10° x 10° MODIS tile. Because each 500 m pixel rarely burns twice during a single fire season, this format allows for annual 500 m data layers with minimal loss of information. In contrast, the 0.25° monthly layers are produced for each calendar year, with averages taken based on the fraction of burned area of each individual fire within the respective month and 0.25° grid cell.

A short user guide
Full dataset hosted by NASA ORNL DAAC (Distributed Active Archive Center)
Full dataset hosted by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Sample files containing the 10 largest, longest, and fastest wildfires across each continent

This work was supported by NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System program and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

  • Andela, N., Morton, D.C., Giglio, L., Paugam, R., Chen, Y., Hanson, S., van der Werf, G. R., Randerson, J.T. (2019). "The Global Fire Atlas of individual fire size, duration, speed, and direction." Earth System Science Data, 11, 529–552.
  • Giglio, L., Boschetti, L., Roy, D. P., Humber, M., and Justice, C. O. "The Collection 6 MODIS burned area mapping algorithm and product". Remote Sens. of Environ., 217, 72-85, 2018.