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Data Center Takes Look At Fire & Drought Risk

June 27, 2012, 7:20 PM by Lindsey Branwall

Data Center Takes Look At Fire & Drought Risk

Dry conditions in South Dakota have been the gateway to the Crow Peak and Dakota fires. This time last year we saw above average moisture and what a difference a year makes.

South Dakota isn't the only place dealing with raging wildfires and the EROS data center in Sioux Falls is keeping an eye on all of the fire danger from the sky.

Seeing red on their map can never be good. Right now Colorado is drenched in red-meaning a high risk for fire danger.

"The Colorado region has been fairly in the red zone," EROS Fire Science Team Leader Jeff Eidenshink said.

EROS is a government agency that gathers satellite images.

"We provide the satellite images to the forest service or the department, whoever is leading the firefighting efforts," Eidenshink said.

As the bottom of the Rocky Mountain region is on high alert, the Badlands appear much better off.

"There isn't much risk for South Dakota. They're dry, but low risk of fires," Eidenshink said.

What can change that is windy conditions and dry lightning. Those are factors that had a hand in the Crow Peak fire, but the problems ultimately stem from winter.

"The warm spring, early snow melts, is what it does is extends the fire season, but what it does at this time, is the fire fuels are drier," Eidenshink said.

The map looked much different just a year ago.

"What a difference a year makes, we were at normal and above normal conditions," EROS Geographer Jesslyn Brown said.

Brown says that this time last year South Dakota was above average in vegetation and rainfall.

"There's a huge mass of below average conditions," Eidenshink said.

Grassland conditions show the same data.

"It's one confirming piece of evidence why they're having fire danger right now," Eidenshink said.

While there is always a large risk with high winds and dry lightning, it's important to keep an eye on the conditions.

"Today, maybe its okay, but what happens over the next few weeks is really critical," Brown said.

To view EROS satellite pictures, visit the EROS website.

To compare drought conditions, visit the vegdri website.

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