If you’ve been to Joburg, you’ll know this to be true: South Africa burns. Many small, random fires dot the landscape, particularly on the highveld (which is, roughly, Gauteng Province and its immediate surrounds), and the country chokes from the smoke of several large, devastating conflagrations each year. Have a look, for instance, at SA Logue’s coverage of the great Table Mountain Fire this January.
Apart from the destruction normally associated with fires, the local flames also interfere with the national electricity grid, whose main artery runs from the Koeberg nuclear power station in the southwest (Western Cape Province) to the coal-fired generators in the northeast (Mpumalanga Province).
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Now, local electricity provider Eskom has teamed up with SA’s main science body, the CSIR, and NASA to bring real-time “fire maps” to the web. You can see what, if anything, is burning in South Africa within the last 15 minutes, compliments of fairly sophisticated satellite imagery.
The best part? The software that generates the maps also monitors the fires, and if any start to threaten the electricity grid, a computer will send out text messages to Eskom technicians and fire officials, who can then get started fighting the blaze!