Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity


The FORMA team believes that access to information is crucial for good decision making, whether at the international, national or local level. This holds as much for environmental issues as it does to more traditional development issues, and it is with this in mind that the FORMA system was envisioned and developed. Every piece of data we used to build FORMA was downloaded for free, and anyone can use the same data to verify or improve upon our methods.

You can download the FORMA output file on this page for February 2000 to October 2009, which represents the distillation of hundreds of gigabytes of data into one small database for Indonesia. You will also find descriptions of and links to each of the input data sets, available from government and academic institutions around the world.

As we refine our data processing methods and consolidate the different scripting languages we use, we plan to release the source code for the FORMA system. If you would like to be notified when we do so, please follow the link below.

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External data sources

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (MOD13A3)

An index of "greenness" derived from MODIS data. Monthly composite datasets used in FORMA to search for patterns of "degreening" indicative of potential forest clearing.

Data format: HDF4
Pixel size: 926.6254331 m
Projection: Sinusoidal
Temporal resolution: 32 days since February 2000

Fire Information for Resource Management System

Thermal anomalies identified using MODIS data. Used in FORMA as potential indicator of forest cover loss.

Data format: text file (points)
Projection: Lat/long
Temporal resolution: daily since late 2000

Citation: NASA/University of Maryland. (2002) MODIS Hotspot / Active Fire Detections. Data set. MODIS Rapid Response Project, NASA/GSFC [producer], University of Maryland, Fire Information for Resource Management System [distributors]. Available on-line here.

Forest cover loss hotspot map (2000-2005)

Forest change hotspots for the entire humid tropical biome. Used in FORMA to train forest clearing detection algorithms.

Data format: GeoTiff
Pixel size: 463.3127 m
Projection: Sinusoidal
Temporal resolution: once, for 2000 to 2005

Citation: Hansen, M.C., Stehman, S.V., Potapov, P.V., Loveland, T.R., Townshend, J.R.G., DeFries, R.S., Pittman, K.W., Stolle, F., Steininger, M.K., Carroll, M., Dimiceli, C. (2008) Humid tropical forest clearing from 2000 to 2005 quantified using multi-temporal and multi-resolution remotely sensed data. PNAS, 105(27), 9439-9444.

PRECipitation REConstrucion over Land (PREC/L)

Data on rainfall available globally. Used in FORMA to control for seasonal variation in vegetation color and fire activity potentially affected by heavy rainfall or drought.

Data format: binary time series
Resolution: 0.5 degrees
Projection: Lat/long

Citation: Chen, M., P. Xie, J. E. Janowiak, and P. A. Arkin, Global Land Precipiation: A 50-yr Monthly Analysis Based on Gauge Observations, 2002, J. Hydrometeor., 3, 249-266.

Vegetation Continuous Field

Estimates vegetation cover globally using MODIS data. Used in FORMA as a forest mask (VCF pixel value > 25%).

Format: GeoTiff
Pixel size: 463.3127 m
Projection: Sinusoidal
Temporal resolution: used data from 2000

Citation: Hansen, M., R. DeFries, J.R. Townshend, M. Carroll, C. Dimiceli, and R. Sohlberg (2006), Vegetation Continuous Fields MOD44B, 2001 Percent Tree Cover, Collection 4, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, 2001.

Terrestrial Ecoregions GIS Database

Polygons delineating terrestrial ecoregions worldwide. Used in FORMA as one unit of analysis for statistical models.

Data format: ESRI shape
Projection: Lat/lon

Citation: Olson, D. M, E. Dinerstein, E.D. Wikramanayake, N.D. Burgess, G.V.N. Powell, E.C. Underwood, J.A. D'amico, I. Itoua, H.E. Strand, J.C. Morrison, C.J. Loucks, T.F. Allnutt, T.H. Ricketts, Y. Kura, J.F. Lamoreux, W.W.Wettengel, P. Hedao, & K.R. Kassem. 2001. Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Life on Earth. BioScience 51:933-938


European Space Agency's global landcover classification, using MERIS FR data from between December 2004 and June 2006. Used in FORMA as an experimental forest mask.

Data format: GeoTIFF
Pixel size: 300 meters
Projection: Lat/long

Citation: GlobCover Land Cover v2 2008 database. European Space Agency, European Space Agency GlobCover Project, led by MEDIAS-France. 2008.

PRODES (Programa de Cálculo do Desflorestamento da Amazônia)

Forest clearing polygons produced for Brazil by visual analysis of Landsat and CBERS images acquired generally in August. Used in FORMA for calibration and quality control in Brazil.

Data format: ESRI shape
Projection: SAD 69
Temporal resolution: annual since 2000

DETER (Detecção do Desmatamento em Tempo Real)

Recent forest clearing and disturbance polygons for Brazil produced using automated processing and analysis of 250 meter MODIS data. Used in FORMA for quality control and testing in Brazil.

Data format: ESRI shape (polygon)
Projection: SAD 69
Temporal resolution: roughly monthly since 2004

National borders and provincial boundaries

Data format: ESRI shape
Projection: Lat/long