Smoke from fires significantly influences climate, weather, and human health. Fire smoke is traditionally detected using an aerosol index calculated from spectral contrast changes. However, such methods usually miss thin smoke plumes. It also remains challenging to accurately separate smoke plumes from dust, clouds, and bright surfaces. To improve smoke plume detections, this paper presents a new scattering-based smoke detection algorithm (SSDA) depending mainly on visible and infrared imaging radiometer suite (VIIRS) blue and green bands. The SSDA is established based on the theory of Mie scattering that occurs when the diameter of an atmospheric particulate is similar to the wavelength of the scattered light. Thus, smoke commonly causes Mie scattering in VIIRS blue and green bands because of the close correspondence between smoke particulate diameters and the blue/green band wavelengths. For developing the SSDA, training samples were selected from global fire-prone regions in North America, South America, Africa, Indonesia, Siberia, and Australia. The SSDA performance was evaluated against the VIIRS aerosol detection product and smoke detections from the ultraviolet aerosol index using manually labeled fire smoke plumes as a benchmark. Results show that the SSDA smoke detections are superior to existing products due chiefly to the improved ability of the algorithm to detect thin smoke and separate fire smoke from other surface types. Moreover, the SSDA smoke distribution pattern exhibits a high spatial correlation with the global fire density map, suggesting that SSDA is capable of detecting smoke plumes of fires in near real-time across the globe.
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