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


May 2020 | New publication

A new paper led by Gitta Lasslop shows how fire shapes global tree cover and biomass distribution. However, fire impacts on photosynthesis and carbon turnover are uncertain.

May 2020 | Presentations at EGU 2020

The environmental remote sensing group at TU Dresden had two presentations at EGU2020: Luisa presented relations between microwave satellite observation and ecosystem properties. I presented how microwave satellite observation relate to fuel moisture content and fire dynamics.

Jan 2020 | New project started

We just started a new project (FURNACES) where we want to assess the role of societies in future changes of fires. The project is a joint project between TU Wien, BOKU, KIT and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre. I will contribute with expertise in data-driven fire modelling and evaluating global fire models with satellite observations.

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.

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.