Trends in global fire occurrence and fire modelling

Global burned area by wildfires is declining, which mainly originates from Northern Africa. However, the satellite records of ~20 years are still too short and inaccurate to state if this decline in global fire occurrence is robust. Also for the future, we cannot robustely predict how fire occurrence will change. Although climate warming and drying will cause more fire-prone weather conditions, actual fire occurrence also depends on human activities and vegetation conditions. Current global fire models cannot well represent these effects on fire (Figure). (2020-01-24). Related publications:
Forkel, M. et al. (2019). Recent global and regional trends in burned area and their compensating environmental controls.
Forkel, M. et al. (2019). Emergent relationships with respect to burned area in global satellite observations and fire-enabled vegetation models.


Matthias Forkel is an environmental scientist who uses satellite observations to study how climate affects ecosystems and vice versa. Thereby Matthias develops and applies remote sensing methods, global ecosystem models, and machine learning approaches. He is a Junior-Professor for Environmental Remote Sensing at the Technical University Dresden, Germany.

Read about his research

Matthias Forkel


December 2019 | 2 new papers

We recently used multiple satellite datasets to improve simulations of a global vegetation model for fire in South America and global vegetation distribution, biomass, and carbon cycling.

November 2019 | Science trip England

Together with Tom Pugh at the University of Birmingham, we explored how machine learning could be used to understand drivers of tree mortality. At the opening of the new Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society, I discussed how satellite observations can be used to better understand and model global wildfire dynamics.

October 2019 | Alumni talk at MPI-BGC

I'm happy to give an alumni talk at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Jena at 30. October. Title: "Earth observations to reappraise global vegetation-fire interactions"

September 2019 | Junior-Professor!

Since September 2019, I'm a Junior-Professor (with tenure track to full professorship) for Environmental Remote Sensing at the Technical University Dresden. Group website

In the media and outreach

Jan 2020 | Research on fire at Twitter

  • Our recent research on global changes in widlfire burned area got attention at Twitter.

Apr 2019 | Contribution to exhibition in museum

Oct 2018 | Media reports about our Nature study


Matthias Forkel is father of two small children. We are a German-Czech family in Europe. We spend our free time in our garden, at playgrounds, in eastern Czechia, in the Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland, the Zittau mountains in Germany, or somewhere else in Europe.

Matthias Forkel

Das Klima der Erde ...

... is a German website about basics of climatology for teachers and students. Matthias created and maintained the website until 2015.