Questions about Flaring

The data for this map was originally made available by NOAA’s Earth Observation Group. As of 15 October 2019, the data is now freely-available from EOG, Payne Inst. for Public Policy, Colorado School of Mines.

The Earth Observation Group have authored the following papers for those interested in the VIIRS instrument and how the flare volume is calculated.

Elvidge, C. D., Zhizhin, M., Hsu, F -C., & Baugh, K. (2013).VIIRS nightfire: Satellite pyrometry at night. Remote Sensing 5(9), 4423-4449.

Elvidge, C. D., Zhizhin, M., Baugh, K. E, Hsu, F -C., & Ghosh, T. (2015). Methods for global survey of natural gas flaring from Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite Data. Energies, 9(1), 1-15.

Elvidge, C. D., Bazilian, M. D., Zhizhin, M., Ghosh, T., Baugh, K., & Hsu, F. C. (2018). The potential role of natural gas flaring in meeting greenhouse gas mitigation targets. Energy Strategy Reviews, 20, 156-162.

Here are a few things that we do at SkyTruth to processes and present the data:

  • We eliminate detections under 1,500º Celsius to remove “cooler” heat sources like forest fires.
  • The data are limited in the extreme northern and southern latitudes due to continuous sunshine and atmospheric noise.
  • In order to eliminate noise and false detections in the temperate and tropical regions, we filter out detections from locations that have only had 1 or 2 detections in 30 days prior to the date displayed. For all detections where there are ≥3 detections in the previous 30 days, we display each detection on the day it was recorded.
  • Detections <926m from each other are adjusted to a spatial average of all detections in the previous 30 days to smooth out the coarse ~750m resolution of the sensor.
  • There was no data available from NOAA between Sept. 29 – Oct. 16, 2013.
  • Starting in December, 2017, the VIIRS instrument started to collect nightfire data on an additional band. This results in many more temperature determinations, which you may see reflected in the timeline.

Applications for this map include:

  •  Demonstrating the tremendous amount of natural gas flaring around the world.
  •  Learning if flaring is a chronic problem in your community or places you care about.
  • Tracking active drilling in gas-producing regions where flaring occurs only during the drilling and completion of wells.
  • Verifying when petrochemical facilities were flaring in order to aid identifying the source of noxious air emissions polluting fence-line communities.
  • Holding companies accountable for wasting public and private resources through routine flaring.
  • Informing public health research on the impacts of flaring on respiratory health and other disciplines.
  •  Let us know how you could use flaring detections to skytruth an issue in your community or speciality.

Verified on the ground by a team we sent out North Dakota’s Bakken Shale and further cross-referenced against aerial and satellite imagery of other flaring hotspots such as Russia, Africa, and the Middle East, this map is updated daily to show the frequency of infrared detections hot enough to be gas flares.

 If you don’t see a flaring detection you expected to see, it may be because of the ways that we process and present the flaring data. Some flares don’t burn hot enough to be included in our dataset, they may not have been burning when the satellite passed overhead, the flare may not be frequent enough to make it past the 3 detection threshold, heavy clouds have obscured the flare from the sensor, etc.