DATABASE: Fire Spotting

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Science  21 Nov 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5649, pp. 1305
DOI: 10.1126/science.302.5649.1305a

A century from now, experts scrutinizing tree rings from southern California forests might see traces of 2003's ruinous blazes around Los Angeles and San Diego. Today's researchers can find out when and where past wildfires toasted the landscape from the International Multiproxy Paleofire Database, a new archive hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Based on tree rings and soil charcoal in samples up to 900 years old, the records provide fire history for some 150 locales in North America. Scientists can add their data sets to the site, which is designed to help researchers explore how fires shape ecosystems and how to predict future fires.

To keep tabs on current burns or locate recent ones, check out GeoMac, a fire-mapping tool sponsored by a federal consortium. Aimed mainly at land managers, the site pinpoints U.S. wildfires for 2002 and 2003 using satellite data and on-the-ground reports. You can delineate the boundaries of large blazes, such as the recent Cedar fire near San Diego, or display a chronology of the amount of area burned.

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