We explore the ability to enhance landscape fire detection and characterization by constructing a 'virtual' fire product from a synthesis of geostationary and polar orbiting satellite data. Active fire pixels detected by the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) were spatially and temporally collated across Africa between February 2004 and January 2005. Coincident fire pixels detected by SEVIRI and MODIS were used to populate an empirical database of frequency density (f-D) distributions of fire radiative power (FRP). Frequency density distributions of FRP measured by SEVIRI at 5.0 degrees grid cell resolution and 15-minute temporal resolution were then cross referenced in the database to a set of counterpart f-D distributions of FRP measured by MODIS. This procedure resulted in the first generation of a 'virtual' fire product that exhibits the full continental coverage and high temporal resolution of SEVIRI whilst quantifying fire pixel counts and FRP with accuracies approaching those of MODIS. Diurnal cycles extracted from the virtual fire product indicate that SEVIRI measures a greater proportion of the active fire pixels and FRP potentially detectable by MODIS during the day due to the increased prevalence and stronger radiant contribution of highly energetic fire pixels. On a daily basis (sample size n = 365) the peak magnitude in the diurnal cycle of the virtual FRP occurred within the same 15-minute timeslot as in the native SEVIRI fire product. Continental-scale ignition and extinction events, however, were detected on average 44 min earlier (standard deviation s.d. = 40 min) and 137 min later (s.d. = 92 min), respectively. It is anticipated that the methodology developed here can be used to cross-calibrate active fire products between a variety of different satellite platforms. (C) 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.